Intercontinental relations between Africa and Europe
Boats sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar near the Moroccan coast. (Credit: marketanovakova/ (via:

Intercontinental relations between Africa and Europe are based on the overall frameworks of the Cotonou Agreement (ACP Countries) and the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), plus three regional strategies (Sahel, Horn of Africa and Gulf of Guinea) and three formal dialogues (the EU-Africa Summits, the troika meetings and the commission-to-commission meetings).

In particular, the areas of cooperation between Africa and Europe are trade (Economic Partnership Agreements – EPAs), development, migration (Valletta action plan as well as the Rabat and the Khartoum Processes), counter-terrorism (G5 Sahel Joint Force) and security with military and civilian missions and operations (Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Niger and Somalia) as part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) together with the role played by the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) within the configuration of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The closest African region to Europe under global terror attack is the Sahel, due to the interconnection of the Al Qaeda Associated Movements (AQAMs) and the Daesh Associated Movements (DAMs) across an arc of instability throughout the Saharan-Sahelian band, ranging from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Guinea and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, indirectly involving the disputed Western Sahara territories too. Therefore, for the security and the development of the Sahel in particular and of Africa in general, the EU has most recently introduced some specific initiatives: The Sahel Alliance, the European External Investment Plan (EIP) and the Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs and the Pan-African Programme (PanAf).

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Africa-Europe: Intercontinental relations in a multipolar world and the way ahead 1

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In parallel, in light of its Agenda 2063, the African Union (AU) is going through considerable changes by way of its ambitious internal institutional reform process, so as to soon become independent from external funding, and by way of continental economic integration, by reason of the Import Levy and the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the implementation of which is in due course.

Brexit is a critical factor for the effectiveness of European diplomatic and business projection in Africa. In fact, the EU and the UK are likely to experience an external action marginal attenuation capacity and consequently undergo a decline in political leadership as global players. So, London will be tempted to revitalise the Commonwealth and liberalise even more trade with Africa, even if forced to renegotiate several bilateral agreements in parallel, thus entering into open competition with the rest of Europe.

At the same time, an ever less Western-managed multipolar world is looming and resolutely taking leadership on Africa’s development, principally made of key non-European international players, such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and so forth, in many cases examples of South-South Cooperation. In terms of policy recommendations, the paper suggests analysing European intercontinental interests, mapping the Africa-EU Partnership’s criticalities, overlaps, and redundancies, in order to:

  • Address an innovative European policy towards Africa in terms of co-localisation.
  • Put forward the creation of a Euro-African Foundation for Mutual Growth (EAFMG), developing a Strategic Co-Development Vision (SCV).
  • Launch Euro-African alliances in key industrial sectors for internationalisation and delocalisation of European SMEs, accelerating the transit from the mere import-export trade approach to the investments-transfer approach.
  • Renegotiate the Post-Cotonou 2020 EU-African trade agreements, in terms of an AU-EU Continent-to-Continent Free Trade Agreement (AuEu-CtC-FTA).
  • Enhance the use of multilateralism and promote quadrangular cooperation between Africa, Europe, China, and the United States, in order to avoid any future conflict between newly emerged and old powers in Africa.


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Marco Massoni

Italian Military Centre of Strategic Studies  ,

Marco Massoni - PhD (Rome 1972) - is an independent political and strategic analyst, and an international relations expert, specialist in African Studies and Extra-Western Philosophies. He was appointed Diplomatic Senior Advisor to the Delegation for the 2009 Italian Presidency of the G8 at the Directorate-General for Sub-Saharan Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also worked with EU, OSCE, UN (FAO and UNHCR) and several international NGOs and Think-Tanks. He was Secretary General of the Institute for Global Studies (IGS), Editorial Director of the quarterly Politica Africana and both Professor (Adjunct Faculty) of International Relations at The American University of Rome (AUR) and of International Law and Peace Processes at the Department of Political Sciences of the University Roma Tre, as well as CEO of the Middle East & Africa Foundation (MEA) of Brussels. Between 2011 and 2017, he was Director of Research for Africa at the Italian Military Centre of Strategic Studies (CeMiSS) at the Italian Defence Centre for High Studies (CASD), where he is also lecturer at both the Joint Services Staff College (ISSMI) and the Institute for Advanced Defence Studies (IASD).