Delegation of the European Union to the African Union

The African Union and the EU

11/05/2016 - 13:16
EU relations with Country

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Africa cover areas such as peace and security, democracy, human rights, development and sustainable economic growth.

The partnership between the EU and Africa aims at building a peaceful, safe, secure environment, which fosters:

  • human security
  • political stability
  • effective governance
  • sustainable and inclusive growth.

The African Union (AU) leads efforts across the continent to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. The EU is a key partner for the AU on peace and security issues. Work in these areas has strong political backing and financial support from the EU’s African Peace Facility (APF)

Much of the funding for African-led peacekeeping operations comes from the APF, which has a budget of €900 million for the period 2014-2016.

EU PSC and AU PSC Cooperation

Cooperation between the EU Political and Security Committee (EU PSC) and the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) is a key element of the EU-Africa peace and security dialogue. The objective is to address international issues, reach common positions and implement common approaches on challenges to peace and security in Africa.

The EU PSC and AU PSC meet on an annual basis in Brussels or in Addis Ababa. The Permanent Chair of the EU PSC and the monthly Chair of the AU PSC are in regular contact and their teams ensure the flow of information on foreign and security policy.

African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA)

The EU is the leading supporter of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). In response to a request by African leaders, the APF was created in 2004 as an innovative instrument which provides the main source of funding to support APSA.

Substantial EU funding has been committed under the APF to support a range of actions including:

  • peace support operations
  • capacity building
  • conflict prevention.

​The EU provides assistance to African institutions in the area of crisis prevention and peace building through exchanging technical guidance, training and equipment.

The AU Continental Early Warning system is benefiting from the EU's support and cooperation. The EU also backs other flagship initiatives of the APSA such as the Panel of the Wise and the PanWise Network. All these actions work towards the AU objective of Silencing the Guns by 2020 in Africa. 

Counter Terrorism, Organised Crime, Drugs and Maritime Security

Europe and Africa are increasing their cooperation to address issues of common concern, such as:

  • terrorism and related threats;
  • transnational organised crime including trafficking of human beings, drugs and weapons;
  • the illegal trade in wildlife.

The EU, AU and their respective countries are developing a coordinated approach to the issue of maritime security including counter-piracy efforts, and the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. These actions are carried out under the African Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050 and the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

The EU-AU Maritime Ministerial Meeting which took place in the Seychelles at the end of 2015 helped to raise awareness of threats posed by criminality at sea.

Human Rights and Conflict

The EU and the AU are committed to strengthening cooperation to improve human rights. The focus is on protecting civilians and on ending sexual violence, in particular with regard to women and children. The full and effective participation and representation of women in peace and security processes is a key priority.

The EU and its countries are among major providers of assistance to children affected by armed conflict. This means:

  • offering substantial help to demobilise and reintegrate child soldiers;
  • helping child victims through psycho-social and socio-economic reintegration;
  • supporting transitional justice;
  • involving children in prevention activities. 

Good governance and respect for human rights are essential for peaceful and sustainable growth in any society. Africa and the EU share these core values.

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy identifies democratic governance and human rights as a priority area for dialogue and joint action. Both parties believe that democracy can only be attained through the establishment of strong accountable institutions as well as an active and organised civil society.

African Governance Architecture

The overall political and institutional framework for the promotion of democracy, governance and human rights in Africa is called the African Governance Architecture (AGA). The AGA is composed of three principal pillars:

  • AU legal commitments, treaties, charters, protocols and other instruments.
  • AU organs and institutions which have responsibilities and mandates on governance, democracy and human rights.
  • The African Governance Platform, which is the coordinating arm of the AGA — established in 2012.

EU support to the AGA and the deployment of AU instruments are being provided via:

  • the Programme on 'Strengthening the African Human Rights System' (€10 million of funding);
  • the 'AU Support Programme' (with €4 million earmarked for the AGA);
  • through the 'Civil Society Programme' (€20 million).

Africa’s Human Rights System

The African Human Rights System is composed of the following elements:

  • legal commitments and treaties;
  • state bodies that administer different instruments;
  • supervisory bodies that monitor, interpret, decide and offer recommendations regarding human rights violations;
  • non-governmental organisations that bring cases, provide information, and make recommendations to the system.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) is mainly responsible for promoting and protecting human rights. The EU supports the ACHPR’s special mechanisms in areas such as women’s rights and freedom of information.

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights is a judicial body that can adjudicate human rights complaints and issue binding decisions. The Court has become increasingly significant as the main African body to protect human rights.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child promotes and protects the rights and welfare of children. It also assesses specific country situations and regional/continental problems, makes field visits, and produces reports and general comments.

The Pan-African Parliament is the AU's legislative body with advisory and consultative powers. The Parliament’s primary role is to promote the ratification and implementation of the AU treaties and legislative acts.

Civil society is the primary catalyst for the African human rights system. As civil society develops expertise on particular issues, it can play an advisory role and offer technical and legal expertise to AU institutions. For example, see:

African Court Coalition

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies

EU-AU Human Rights Dialogue

The EU-AU Human Rights Dialogue is an annual meeting which first took place in Brussels, 2008. The Dialogue is at the core of the Africa-EU Partnership pillar on Democratic Governance and Human Rights and the Joint Roadmap. The meeting is a forum for sharing experience on human rights issues with a view to enhancing cooperation and coordination.

News from recent Dialogues:


The Joint Roadmap identifies election observation as a key area of cooperation between Europe and Africa in the field of democratic governance and human rights.

The adoption of a number of legal instruments has confirmed the commitment of the AU to strengthening its role in promoting and protecting the integrity of elections at the regional level. In 2006, the African Union Council’s Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit (DEAU) was established with a mandate to:

  • coordinate and organise the AU’s observation of elections;
  • implement the African Union Commission's (AUC) programme for the promotion of democracy and democratic elections in Africa;
  • provide technical and capacity-building support to AU members.

The AU has a standing mandate to observe all elections in AU countries and has done so in well over 400 elections. Since 2013, in addition to short term observers, the AU has deployed several teams of long-term observer missions as well as pre-election assessment missions.

Through the Pan African Programme, the EU has provided €6.5 million to support AU election observation.


The EU and Africa have agreed to exchange experiences on the return of illegally exported or acquired goods, to cooperate on fighting against illicit trafficking and to protect cultural goods.

In this regard the EU supports workshops relating to illicit trafficking of cultural goods and backs the development of the African Position Paper on Antiquities.

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy seeks to promote human development, societies and economies based on skills, knowledge and the mobility of people. The EU and Africa work in a spirit of partnership to find common solutions to issues of mutual interest. 

Science and Technology

EU-Africa cooperation in science, technology and innovation (STI) aims to encourage collaboration between European and African researchers — and to develop a long-term innovation partnership.

Investments in STI are also vital to promote growth and employment, improve competitiveness and address global societal challenges such as:

  • climate change
  • renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • health
  • food and nutrition security.

The EU-Africa High-Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on STI is a forum that defines and agrees on shared priorities. The HLPD has identified Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) as the first shared priority.

These priorities will be addressed through various funding instruments, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and the African Union Research Grants programmes.

Between 2007 and 2013, the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research (FP7) fostered EU-Africa STI cooperation by funding around 600 collaborative research projects involving some 1 400 participants from 45 African countries. Examples of EU-Africa cooperation are available online.

The EU also sponsors the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards, which recognise leading African scientists.

Higher Education

Key objectives of Africa-EU cooperation in the area of higher education are:

  • promoting the mobility of African and European students, scholars, researchers and staff;
  • harmonisation of higher education in Africa;
  • enhancing quality assurance and accreditation in African universities;
  • the development of centres of excellence in Africa, particularly through the Pan-African University.

The EU supports mobility of students and staff from, to and within Africa through different programmes:

Tuning Africa is a joint EU-African project that promotes harmonisation and quality in African higher education through close collaboration in programme design for key subject areas among universities from different African countries.

The EU also supports the AU’s Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework (PAQAF).

Migration, mobility and employment

The key objectives of Africa-EU cooperation in the area of mobility, migration and employment include fostering connections between migration and development.

This can be achieved by:

  • reducing the costs of remittances;
  • improving the organisation of labour mobility;
  • enhancing cooperation to address people trafficking and irregular migration;
  • collaborating on international protection and asylum.

The 4th EU-Africa Summit in April 2014 adopted a Joint EU-Africa Declaration on Migration and Mobility and agreed to implement an Action Plan for 2014-2017.

The collaboration between the EU and Africa is underpinned through several dialogues:

  • The Migration and Mobility Dialogue (MMD) is steered by a core group of European and African countries and organisations that overview the implementation of the Action Plan.
  • The Rabat Process  was established between the countries concerned by the 'West African migration route' including migration to Europe from northern, central and western Africa.
  • The Khartoum Process was launched in November 2014 and aims to prevent and tackle human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants between the Horn of Africa and Europe.
  • The African Union Horn of Africa Initiative (AU-HoAI) was launched in October 2014 by the adoption of the Khartoum Declaration on Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants.

The Valletta Summit on Migration also reinforced existing dialogues and structures.

The resulting action plan includes more than 90 actions in five key areas:

  • development benefits of migration and addressing root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement;
  • legal migration and mobility;
  • protection and asylum;
  • prevention of and fight against irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings;
  • return, readmission and reintegration.

16 Priority initiatives have been identified for delivery before the end of 2016. See also: the Summit’s political declaration.

The EU Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) addresses the root causes of irregular migration and displaced people in Africa. It was also formally launched at the Valletta Summit. The EUTF has been created to support 23 African countries in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel Region, the Lake Chad Region and the North of Africa. The Fund currently stands at €1.9 billion.

With support from the EU, the African Institute for Remittances (AIR) was formally launched in November 2014. It aims to ensure African remittances will be used as development tools for poverty reduction by making remittance transfers to and within Africa, cheaper, safer, faster and easier.

In January 2015 the AU Summit adopted the Joint Labour Migration Program (JLMP) for Africa. The JLMP is a comprehensive programme on labour migration governance for Africa.

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy identifies sustainable and inclusive development, growth and continental integration as a key priority for dialogue and joint actions during the period 2014-2017.

Africa and the EU are actively engaged in dialogue on their respective experiences in regional economic integration, the creation and governance of regional trade blocs, and Africa’s integration into the global economy.

The EU and 32 African countries have agreed to engage in Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) opening a new era in EU-Africa trade relations. This era is marked by strong potential for job-creating growth and major opportunities to boost Africa’s regional economic integration.

North African countries also trade with the EU via their Association Agreements. They are engaging in expanding the scope of these agreements via the negotiation of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs).

Continental integration in Africa remains a major building block of the Africa-EU Partnership. The EU is the major international partner supporting the establishment of Africa's Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

The AUC, African regional organisations and their respective member states are engaged in efforts to boost trade between African nations. The EU has been a key partner supporting initiatives on:

  • customs cooperation and trade facilitation
  • African Quality Infrastructure
  • improving productive capacities and the investment climate
  • providing economic statistics in Africa.

Private Investment

The EU and Africa identified the private sector as a key partner in development and the promotion of continental integration and trade in their joint Roadmap 2014-2017.

Representatives from European and African business communities use the EU-Africa Business Forum (EABF) to discuss challenges and propose ways to engage the private sector in sustainable and inclusive growth.

The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum was held in 2014 and identified a wide range of areas in which enhanced cooperation could further encourage the participation of the private sector.

EU initiatives such as the Africa Investment Facility (AfIF), the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (EU-AITF) and the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) aim to increase investment in Sub-Saharan Africa by blending long-term loans from financiers with grants.

Infrastructure and Continental Integration

Africa has undergone fundamental changes over the past decade which in turn have increased the demand for infrastructure services including energy, transport, ICT, water supply and urban infrastructure.

Against this backdrop, the EU and Africa pursue intense dialogue to increase investment in infrastructure, services and regulatory reforms to develop efficient and sustainable regional infrastructure networks.

The cooperation focuses on:

Within the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, major contributions have been made to infrastructure development, and significant results have been achieved in the four key infrastructure sectors.

Agriculture, Food Security and Food Safety

EU-Africa cooperation in agriculture, food security and food safety takes place at different levels. Most of the financial support is provided at country level through cooperation between the EU and individual African countries. At continental and regional levels, cooperation is mainly framed around the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

During 2014 and 2015, the EU chaired the CAADP Development Partners Task Team and has been the main contributor to the World Bank-managed CAADP Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF).

The EU approach is evolving towards more direct support to the AUC and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), in parallel with enhancing policy dialogue. In this regard, direct support is being provided to the AUC to facilitate CAADP coordination at continental level, as well as in areas such as:

  • Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Standards (SPS)
  • Plant Health Issues
  • Geographical Indications (GI)
  • Organic Agriculture.

Animal Resources play a crucial role in agriculture, food security and food safety across Africa. Institutional support is therefore provided to the AUC and the technical offices which deal with the issue.

A Contact Group on Sustainable Agriculture, Nutrition, Food Security and Safety has been established and meets regularly to strengthen technical dialogue, enhance cooperation and inform political discussions.

Land Policy and Nutrition

The EU is the main supporter of the Land Policy Initiative (LPI), which contributes to improved efficiency, equity and environmental stewardship.

LPI is an initiative developed by the AUC, the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The initiative has produced important policy documents including the African Union Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa (LSLBI).

EU-Africa cooperation on Nutrition aims at building capacity at different levels as well as reinforcing the AUC role in the continental coordination and governance of nutrition.

In the context of Resilience, nutrition is promoted under frameworks such as the Global Alliance for Resilience Initiative (AGIR) and the Horn of Africa Resilience (SHARE) initiative.

The EU and Africa share similar views on important global issues such as:

  • climate change;
  • protecting the environment;
  • the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development;
  • trade;
  • tackling the proliferation of small arms, weapons of mass destruction and transfers of conventional arms.

The two continents are committed to working together on these issues. They therefore aim to implement joint actions identified in the EU-Africa Roadmap.

Climate Change and the Environment

The EU-Africa joint strategic objective on climate change aims to achieve common positions in global forums and international negotiations and jointly address challenges as identified within the EU-Africa Roadmap 2014-2017.

On the eve of the 2014 EU-Africa Summit, a Joint Ministerial EU-Africa Statement on Climate Change was adopted. In this Statement, African and EU leaders confirmed their resolve to seek common positions in negotiations taking place in forums like the Paris Climate Summit.

Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev) is a joint initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). ClimDev was established by the EU in 2007 to foster cooperation on climate change with developing countries.

Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) is an EU-Africa programme funded by the European Development Fund. €37 million has been allocated for 2012-2017 to increase the information management, decision-making and planning capacity of African institutions which have responsibility for environment, climate and food security.

The European Copernicus programme is also a major source of data, information, and technological know-how for satellite services across the entire African Continent.

Building Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa (DRR) is an EU initiative which aims to accelerate the effective implementation of the African Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy. DRR has a total budget of €80 million.

Post-2015 Development Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030

The EU and Africa have worked together to define:

The EU is determined to implement fully the 2030 Agenda across the range of its internal and external policies.

The EU (with its countries) is already the world’s largest donor of development aid and has pledged to increase its contribution by 0.7% of EU Gross National Income (GNI) within the Agenda 2030 timeframe. As part of the Agenda for Change, the EU has refocused its aid to ensure it goes to those countries which need it most.

In 2015, the AU adopted Agenda 2063 which aims to achieve 'An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena'. It calls for all parts of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united continent based on shared values and a common destiny.

EU-Africa cooperation on the fight against illicit proliferation of SALW

In 2010, the EU launched a project which addresses the proliferation of firearms and explosive materials in Africa. The project aims to establish regional and continent-wide coordination on small arms and light weapons (SALW).

Results achieved so far include:

  • development of action plans to reduce SALW;
  • increased cooperation between law enforcement agencies;
  • improvements in record keeping.

See also: EU strategy to combat proliferation of SALW

The 4th EU-Africa Summit agreed that the implementation of the Joint Strategy should be further improved in the light of experience and developments in Africa and Europe as well as globally.

The Summit therefore adopted the Joint Roadmap to frame continent-to-continent cooperation for the period 2014-2017. This document sets out key priorities and areas for joint actions where Africa and the EU have mutual interests.

A Joint Annual Forum

The Summit agreed on the creation of a Joint Annual Forum (JAF), replacing the previous Joint Task Force. The objective of the JAF is to assess the implementation of the actions defined by the Roadmap and to gather together all the actors that are committed to the EU-Africa Partnership.

College-to-College Meetings

College-to-College meetings between the AU and EU take place on an annual basis to provide political and operational direction to Africa-EU relations.

The last annual meeting of the Colleges took place in April 2016 at the Headquarters of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Discussions focused on existing shared challenges and covered the five priority areas of the 2014-2017 Roadmap:

  • peace and security;
  • democracy, good governance and human rights;
  • human development;
  • sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration;
  • global and emerging issues.

At the closing session, a Joint Communiqué was adopted.

The EU-Africa Business Forum

The Joint EU-Africa Partnership supports the EU-Africa Business Forum which brings together African and European business leaders representing:

  • multi-nationals
  • large corporations
  • small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • confederations
  • regional institutions.

The Forum provides an open platform for debating common challenges, such as the stake of young people in the economy, the role of banks for inclusive growth and financing issues for SMEs. In addition, specific issues are high on the agenda, including raw materials, risk capital, sustainable energy and space cooperation.

The EU supports projects in Africa which enable the private sector to promote inclusive growth and be more competitive in national, regional and international markets.

The African Union Support Programmes

The African Union Support Programme I was deployed starting in 2007 to deliver improvements to Africa’s institutions and administrations. An evaluation confirmed the value of the programme which had a budget of €60 million, €55 million of which came from the EU.

The African Union Support Programme II came into force in 2014 and attracted €30 million in funding from the EU. It is building on the objectives of its predecessor but will end sooner than foreseen due to progress in spending and the use of funds to tackle Ebola.

The African Union Support Programme III will have two main objectives:

  • Enhancing EU-AU policy dialogue and improving the performance of the AUC;
  • Helping the AUC implement the 2014-2017 Joint Roadmap.

In addition, technical assistance will be provided for negotiations relating to the development of the Continental Free Trade Area.

The programme will receive €52.8 million in funding (EU contribution: €45.15 million; AU contribution: €7.65 million).

The Pan-African Programme

The Pan-African Programme provides dedicated support to the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership and is the first ever EU programme for development and cooperation that covers Africa as a whole.

Established in 2014, the Programme constitutes one of the main EU financial instruments for the implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy. The programme is funded under the EU's Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) with a budget of €845 million for the period 2014-2020.

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