AFRICA-EU RELATIONS: A mixture of fascination and mistrust, By Robert Dussey


By Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of Togo

On the 5th and 6th of June will take place the Development Days of Europe. As in every edition, this high mass, whose main theme this year will be “Women and girls at the forefront of sustainable development: protecting, empowering, and investing,” will bring together development actors to discuss the key challenges that lie ahead. pose to the world. For obvious reasons, Africa should be on the agenda.

Europe and Africa are, in fact, two continents that geography has brought together, but a painful history has, in a way, moved away. The consequence of this story is that the relationship between the two blocks has always been marked by a mixture of fascination and mistrust. The feeling of a bound destiny but of an impossible alliance predominates. The outcry aroused in part of French-speaking Africa following the inauguration, on May 9, of the “new Place de l’Europe” in Gorée, emblematic place of the transatlantic slave trade, perfectly illustrates the complexity of this relationship.

This project to renovate a historic site, which was originally inaugurated by former European Commission President Romano Prodi in 2003, was largely funded by the European Union. But this gesture, which wanted to be friendly, was considered awkward by some, and scandalous by others. This relationship of distrust can no longer last because the risk it poses on both continents is now too high. Despite flattering nominal growth rates for a decade, poverty remains high in Africa.

Inequalities are widening and population growth continues. In rural areas, extreme weather events are increasing. They cause famine and conflict, and push many young idle into the arms of terrorist groups that are now swarming on the continent and threaten the stability of African states. In the urban areas, thousands of young people, sometimes graduates, but underemployed or unemployed, are hostages of political systems that, for all sorts of reasons, good or bad, are unable to offer them the conditions for a better life. . Not surprisingly, these young Africans are on the road to European exile, often risking their lives. Terrorism, the consequences of climate change, illegal immigration, are major challenges for Africa, and therefore for Europe.

This Europe is all the more concerned by the destiny of Africa as there have always been important interests. These interests, the legitimate pursuit of which leads too often to alliances and supports whose consequences are harmful for the African populations as well as, more and more, for the European citizens. This is why we must renew the software of the Africa-Europe relationship. On the European side, this has historically been limited to institutional links, to the abstract promotion of great democratic principles, and to the sometimes cynical defense of commercial positions. It is now necessary to establish bonds of trust with African youth who are more informed, aware of global issues and willing to take part in world affairs.

The record of 30 years of electoral democracy in Africa is disappointing, as it has been implanted in fragile nation states. Perhaps it is time to work to strengthen these nation states. On the African side, almost five decades after Independence, efforts must be made to establish a relationship of trust with Europe. On this point, African diplomats have an eminent role to play in explaining the African vision of the world to Europe, find points of convergence, defend projects of common interests, and work together for the advent of a world more stable, because more just.