Since 2000, the European Union (EU)-Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partnership has been governed by the Cotonou Agreement which seeks to alleviate poverty and achieve the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy. Designed to last for 20 years, the Cotonou Agreement will come to an end in 2020. In the view of the looming deadline, dialogue and consultations on a post-Cotonou partnership have already started. Multiple stakeholders in the EU and ACP partner countries, as well as the institutions of each block continue take part in the process leading to the new post 2020 framework. On the part of the EU, former WTO Director General, Pascal Lamy has been tasked to start the post-Cotonou talks.
The core proposed pillars of the post Cotonou partnership include migration, peace and security, youths and trade. These pillars have been arrived at due to a number of reasons. For example, although less than 20% of migrants to Europe come from Africa, the EU has shifted its focus towards Africa with the issue being a focus of dialogue and action between Africa and Europe, and is still being addressed under the Migration and Mobility Dialog (MMD) of the Rabat and Khartoum processes. Peace and Security has also always been a topic high up on the Africa-EU agenda, and the EU has long supported African efforts to foster Peace and Security on the continent under the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and peace support operations through the African Peace Facility. The youths have also been brought up on the agenda because the Youth in both Europe and Africa are the most vulnerable to the vagaries of irregular migration, underdevelopment, unemployment, radicalisation, conflict and organised crime.
It is also important to highlight that trade is another point of consideration under the post Cotonou partnership. Currently, the economic relations between Africa and the EU are facing severe challenges as seen from the EPAs. Even though not part of the official EU-Africa partnership, the EPAs have had a profound impact on the relationship between the continents. While the SADC-EAC EPA has been signed and ratified, full signing of the EPA by the EAC and the ECOWAS is still pending as some member states are refusing to sign because of fear for detrimental effects on their nascent industries. Another reason is the Brexit vote which means that the biggest trading partner for some African countries will no longer be part of the EPAs, and of course in the Post-Cotonou partnership. Another challenge closely linked to the EPAs are the negotiations on the future of the Cotonou agreement which is the overall framework guiding the economic relationship between the two continents – including the EPAs. The EPAs and the Post-Cotonou negotiations, could have severe implications for the future of the EU-Africa relations and need careful thinking of how to forge a way forward and find a sustainable and mutually beneficial way of economic cooperation.