The upcoming African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Summit, initially scheduled for October 2020 and then postponed due to the pandemic, is crucial for the future of the relationship between the two continents. The European Commission has promised to work on a new design of the EU relationship with the African continent. Civil Society has advocated revisiting the relations between the parties with a view to building an equal partnership, which will help achieve the SDGs and promote Democracy and Human Rights.

Throughout the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council and within the scope of the project “Towards an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the World”, the Portuguese NGDO Platform has carried out several initiatives related to EU-Africa relations, including publishing this issue of the Platform’s magazine, with a view to facilitating this discussion.

Consequently, to provide the initial framework for this reflection, we open this issue with an article by Patrícia Magalhães Ferreira and Andreia Oliveira, the authors of the study “European Union and Africa: towards a “partnership of equals”?” that the Platform published recently. They provide an outlook on the changes that the EU-Africa partnership has undergone, describe some of the main challenges and identify some of the conditions necessary for building a more effective, equitable and balanced partnership.

Vitalice Meja, from “Reality of Aid Africa”, addresses in his article the importance of democratic appropriation of this partnership – which is still by “definition and application heavily State-driven and high level” under the strong focus of Governments and developed at a high level, with little or no input from citizens. He calls our attention to the importance of involving all stakeholders in the debate and creating mechanisms of accountability for the citizens of the European Union and Africa.

Providing some views on the economic dimension of what is intended for a fair and equal partnership, Tanya Cox from Concord Europe argues that the European Union needs to work with its partner countries for “reorienting the economy so that it serves people and planet, not the other way around.” The author warns of the need for a firm commitment to inclusive and sustainable business models and to partnering with companies that put social and environmental objectives first.

“A partnership of equals for migration” is the input from Luísa Fondello from Caritas Europe. She addresses the EU’s approach to migration – mostly concentrated on “securitization and short-term measures”, with few proposals for enhancing legal migration, which is a key priority for African countries. According to the author, the EU’s approach is inconsistent with its alleged intention to build a more balanced partnership, and is reflected in “a political choice, which is not aligned with the fundamental European values of solidarity and human dignity”.

Daniel Wegner and Ian Mengel of the German NGDO Platform – Venro – call for civil society to take part in political processes, such as the AU-EU Summit. The summit was postponed until the French EU Presidency in 2022, offering an opportunity to organise a more inclusive process – notably through digital cooperation -, “to promote social and political participation and to capitalise on the knowledge of the people on the ground”.

Priscilla Chomba Kinywa, Digital Transformation Strategist, discusses the Africa-EU partnership in the digital area. Priscilla argues that, while digitalization can be an opportunity to find “innovative solutions to the global challenges facing humanity”, its impacts can be negative if contexts and unequal access to technology are not addressed.

“Climate justice within the EU-Africa relations: what’s the way forward?” is a reflection by Lydia Lehlogonolo Machaka of CIDSE on the urgency of finding truly transformative, fair and ambitious solutions that will enable the EU “to meet its climate and green agenda and genuinely support Africa to achieve its development goals”. The author sustains that it is essential to recognize “the true value and respect for nature”, and addresses important issues such as access to energy, rural agriculture, land rights, and the importance of an economy that puts people and the planet before profits.

This issue’s interview, which is also available in audio file format, was to Bernardo Ivo Cruz, Counsellor at the Portuguese Permanent Representation of Portugal to the European Union and Delegate to the European Council’s Africa Working Party. He talked about the contribution of the Portuguese Presidency towards building an effective, inclusive and equitable EU-Africa relationship.

We hope that this issue of the Magazine of the Portuguese NGDO Platform may contribute to a constructive debate towards a genuine and meaningful EU-Africa relationship.

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