The New Frontier for the EU-Africa Relationship and its Relevance for Southern Africa

In late 2020 the relationship between the European Union (EU) and Africa had reached a frontier and the next phase in the relationship was very unclear. A nexus of factors, including historical events and circumstances, provide the context in which key decisions now urgently need to be taken about the future of the relationship. These factors include the international geopolitical context, the changing nature of the EU (especially in the wake of Brexit), changes in Africa and imminent changes to a key (historical) institutional vehicle for the partnership, namely the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, formerly known as the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. There are also a number of other inherent issues, often problematic, that need to be addressed in order to craft an optimal way forward for the relationship. These include the multiplicity of relationships characterising the EU–Africa partnership, existing economic/ trade arrangements, and different expectations and strategies on each side regarding the way ahead. Africa needs improved capacity to coordinate and manage its relationship with the EU. Moreover, the current relationship mechanisms need to be simplified. While Africa needs to put more effort into devising its own strategy for the relationship, with clearly defined goals and objectives, there is also a need for better and more focused EU–Africa dialogue aimed at forging consensus on key priority areas and goals to be achieved. The role of South Africa, the EU’s only formal strategic partner in Africa, is of considerable importance ‒ as is its strategic position vis-à-vis its immediate neighbours in southern Africa. South Africa’s leadership position and influence in the region should be leveraged to facilitate better results from other partnerships between European and African stakeholders.