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This study examined the European Union, EU and challenges of African development. Specifically, the study ascertained if the increasing rate of EU-African relations has increased the volume of trade between EU and Africa. Secondly, ascertained if the growing rate of EU-African relations has increased the volume of foreign direct investment from EU states to Africa. The study interrogated the following research questions. First, has the increasing rate of EU-African relations increased the volume of trade between EU and Africa? Second, has the growing rate of EU-African relations increased the volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) from EU states to Africa? The theory of complex interdependence was chosen as our theoretical framework. Our choice of the theory is because of its ability to highlight cooperative actions among states and facilitate deep understanding of global patterns of interrelationship. The study relied on secondary sources of data, and as such generated both qualitative and quantitative data. After a critical analysis of available data, the study revealed as follows: first, the increasing rate of EU-African relations has increased the volume of trade between EU and Africa. Second, the growing rate of EU-African relations has increased the volume of foreign direct investment from EU states to Africa. Based on these findings, the study believes that Africa as a continent should deepen the rate of economic activities between her and EU to attract more FDI and trade deals. Further, Africa should cultivate, and compete for, foreign direct investment inflows to bridge their domestic saving-investment gap and therefore augment the available funds to finance the development process through bilateral investment agreements like their developing countries’ counterparts in other regions.





International relations are undergoing profound change with newly emerging powers entering the scene. The European Union is itself an “emerging” foreign policy actor, hoping to reinforce its political influence in order to match its weight as global development actor (2007). The European Union, (EU), is an international economic organization comprising some advanced countries of the north, which originally included France, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. It has however, to include twenty one (21), other countries namely, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom. Through a conglomeration of the African, Caribbean and Pacific, (ACP), group of states which today number seventy nine, (79), (48 African, 16 Caribbean and 15 Pacific) countries are associated with the EU.

As a result of the Cold War, Europe took so much interest in the affairs of Africa coupled with the fact that most of the African countries were colonized by Major European powers and dependent on them. It is also believed that Euro-African relations arises by default. According to John (1995:95):

Africa’s dependence on Europe also arises by default, that is, from the failure of African countries to diversify to any significant degree their trading links in the three decades since most states received their independence…And Africa’s economic decline makes the continent an attractive prospect as trading partner.

Europe, preoccupied with the its own problems as it moved toward the establishment of a single integrated market in 1992 and with the growing instability on its eastern borders following the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc, appeared, in the early 1990s, to have lost enthusiasm for the development compact with Africa. Following the end of the Cold War, it seemed that the EU and its Member States were losing interest in Africa. At the level of the bilateral policies of the Member States, France, the United Kingdom, and numerous other countries in Europe cut substantially the level of their development programmes (Fredrik, 2007).

In fact, John (1995:96) observed that: Even France, long the champion of increased assistance to Africa within the European Union, seemed to be tiring of the cost of supporting its sphere of influence.

However, since international politics is shaped by the underlying global dynamics and the political context of each continent. The relationship appears to be on the resurgence. With the beginning of the new century, the collective commitment to double aid to Africa and to enhance its effectiveness has increased among members of the EU. The 2000 Lomé Agreements – renamed Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) has become the main legal framework of cooperation between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The first EU-Africa Heads of State Summit in 2000, in Cairo, recognised the need for a new high-level political relationship between the two continents and professed a new standard of multilateral cooperation that would not be based on the usual post-colonial perspectives and donor-recipient philosophy (Andrew, 2010).

Further, the adoption of the European Consensus on Development, the ambitious agenda on policy coherence for development marked a change in the EU’s approach to international development. On the other hand, the process towards a ‘common’ strategy for Africa, which culminated in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted in Lisbon in December 2007, meant that the EU was trying to play a leading role in the international arena (Fredrik, 2009).

Africa, therefore, became central not only to the EU’s development policy, but, more widely, to its overall external affairs. This study has been designed to critically evaluate the European Union and challenges of development in Africa.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Europe’s relationship with Africa is not new. It is deeply rooted in history and has gradually evolved from often painful colonial arrangements into a strong and equal partnership based on common interests, mutual recognition and accountability. Europe and Africa are connected by strong trade links, making the EU the biggest export market for African products. For example, approximately 85% of Africa’s exports of cotton, fruit and vegetables are imported by the EU. Europe and Africa are also bound by substantial and predictable aid flows. In 2003 the EU’s development aid to Africa totalled €15 billion, compared to €5 billion in 1985. With this, the EU is by far the biggest donor: its ODA accounts for 60% of the total Official development Assistance, ODA going to Africa (see Commission of the European Communities, 2005).

Moreover, some EU Member States retain longstanding political, economic and cultural links with different African countries and regions, while others are relative newcomers to African politics and development. At Community level, over the last few decades the European Commission has built up extensive experience and concluded a number of contractual arrangements with different parts of Africa that provide partners with a solid foundation of predictability and security.

However, for too long the EU’s relations with Africa have been too fragmented, both in policy formulation and implementation: between the different policies and actions of EU Member States and the European Commission; between trade cooperation and economic development cooperation; between more traditional socio-economic development efforts and strategic political policies. Neither Europe nor Africa can afford to sustain this situation and in December 2005, the European Union made a decisive effort to define a more strategic platform for its relations with Africa, aiming at a mutually beneficial partnership.

Against this backdrop and building on the work of the first Africa-EU summit in Cairo in 2000, leaders from both continents decided to move cooperation to a new level in 2007. At the Lisbon Summit, 80 Heads of States and Government from Europe (27) and Africa (53) agreed to pursue common interests and strategic objectives together, beyond the focus of traditional development policy. To do so, they adopted the Joint Africa-EU Strategy which redefines the relations between the two continents for tackling global challenges together. In the context of the Strategy, the first action plan covering the period 2008-2010 and introducing concrete measures was structured around eight strategic partnerships: As noted by the EuroBarometer (2010), the areas of strategic partnership are:

  1. Peace and security
  2. Democratic governance and human rights
  3. Trade, regional integration and infrastructure
  4. Millennium development goals (MDGs)
  5. Energy
  6. Climate change
  7. Migration, mobility and employment
  8. Science, information society and space

However, studies in Africa’s relations such as Adogamhe, (2006); Princeton (1988); Diamond (1995); George (2006); Cornelissens (2000); De Lorenzo (2007); with the rest of the world has always centered on her relations with America, with specific countries within the EU and more recently with China. This does not help us to understand the trajectory and dynamics of Africa-EU relations. More fundamentally, this has glossed over the role of EU in Africa’s development. Hence, this forms the lacuna in literature that we seek to bridge. This study therefore, sets out to critically appraise the EU and its role in development in Africa.

In light of the above discussions, we pose the following research questions:

  • Has the increasing rate of EU-African relations increased the volume of trade between EU and Africa?
  • Has the increasing rate of EU-African relations increased the volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) from EU states to Africa?

1.3         Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of this study is to critically appraise the EU and development in Africa. Specifically, this study has the following


  • To ascertain if the increasing rate of EU-Africa relations has increased the volume of trade between EU and Africa.
  • To ascertain if the increasing rate of EU-Africa relations has increased the volume of foreign direct investment from EU states to Africa.

1.4       Significance of the Study

The study has both practical and theoretical significance.

Practically, the study will guide policy makers of African states in their relations with the external environment and in their domestic policy making and implementation process to develop effective ways in its relation with other continents of the world. Further, as no nation in Africa is static and every generation has its own unique problems, this work will serve as a catalyst to the present and future generations of Africa to deepen Africa’s relations with EU knowing that we are presently in an interdependent world.

Theoretically, this study will provide students of international relations with new knowledge on Africa-EU relations. The study will equally add to existing literature on Africa-EU relations and expectedly, provoke further research on the subject matter.

1.5         Literature Review

In this section, our primary concern is to concentrate on existing literature in relation to the subject matter of our research questions with a view to understanding what scholars have already written or what have not been properly and satisfactorily addressed in the literature concerning the discourse under investigation. In this context, the major thrust of our review shall concentrate on:

  1. EU-African Relations and trade.
  1. EU-African Relations and foreign direct investment.

EU-African Relations and Trade

Anne (2003) noted that from the EU’s perspective, one way of easing the political tension and persuading African governments of the good intensions of European donors would be to give a clearer sign that the EU does indeed view the relationship with Africa as a valuable and equal partnership rather than what many African leaders seem to think, as a one-way stream of paternalistic charitability, thinly camouflaging self-interested economic policies. This could be done by focusing less on aid, and more on other factors that promote development – particularly trade, but also migration. She further observed that while bad governance is a hindrance to economic growth, it is also the case that economic sluggishness is a hindrance to democracy and good governance. There is general agreement that aid is not the best way to create economic growth. The EU would therefore do well to focus more on other strategies than aid in their quest to assist Africa’s development.

Greg (2003) looking at the linkage between aid from EU and good governance in Africa observed that most governments in Africa today have had their leadership endorsed through some form of democratic election. Many of them find it problematic that they then should have to follow the standards set by outsiders rather than themselves when it comes to how they choose to run their country. Even when the standards are very similar to the ones that they endorse themselves, it is often seen as a dent in their sovereign pride to have to endure others imposing these standards in the form of demands and conditions. While it is, in principle, entirely voluntary whether to accept conditional aid or not, in reality most poor African countries are highly dependent on aid money and would find it difficult .This leads us to a discussion of the political problem of sovereignty caused by the good governance agenda of donor states to say no. He said that in 1996, foreign aid constituted the equivalent of 12.3 percent of GDP in Africa, if we exclude Nigeria and South Africa.

Ian (2009) in exploring how changes within Africa have influenced the evolution of the EU-Africa relations opines that the beginning of the 2000s, a developmental agenda was advanced by leading African elites aimed at revitalising Africa’s place in the global political economy. The NEPAD, launched in 2001, was received with considerable enthusiasm in some quarters of the developed world as an African-led initiative that would provide the framework for promoting development in Africa.

The African Union (AU), launched in 2002, effectively replacing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which had been the premier continental organisation in Africa, was an ambitious project, but fraught with all sorts of difficulties. It is difficult, for example, to see how such vitally needed unity could be achieved, given the current tensions that continue to wrack Africa. Both the AU and the NEPAD have been launched at a time when there has been a growing questioning of the basic neo-liberal philosophy that underpins contemporary capitalism, frequently cast within the catch-all term ‘globalisation’.

He further infers that observers may proffer the view that this juncture opens up space for Africa and that perhaps the AU and the NEPAD may be vehicles to advance this. Such a commitment has been agreed and signed by African elites themselves and there can be no retreat. Even though the AU takes as its departure the European Union as the ultimate end game, it must be seen as an internally originated institution deserving of particular attention and scrutiny. In the same vein however, its commitments need to be measured against actual concrete action rather than accepting at face value the various pronouncements made on extremely important issues.

On the part of Richard (2009) the EU’s engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa have been a characteristic of the development of the Union’s foreign, security and defence policies since the 1990s. The EU’s policies pursued Sub-Saharan Africa have played a key role in developing both the form of the EU’s foreign policy infrastructure and its instruments and, crucially, in the forms of military intervention that the EU has undertaken outside of Europe. He argues that argues that Sub-Saharan Africa has provided a crucial component in the evolution of an embryonic strategic culture for the EU.

Nugent (1996) devoted a considerable part of his work to the events that led to the formation of the EU, formerly known as the EEC. He observed that the 1957 treaty of Rome which set up the then EEC is in consonance with the ideas and burning desire of Europe to improve the world economy most especially the economy of the third world.

He further discussed the politics that goes on in the EU between the more developed and less developed member states. Britain, France, Italy, and Germany were specifically mentioned as power brokers in the EU. Nugent’s analysis was so much faulted because he dwelt much on the contributions made by individual European nations towards the formation of the EEC and failed to illustrate how the EU would help to improve the third world economy.

Weigall and Stirk (1997) traced the origin of the EU to the EEC, although they made no attempt to provide solutions towards the economic problems of much of the third world. However, they offered a very detailed analysis of the EU and how it works.

The duo described the foundation, structure and all the functions of the EU. Weigll and Stirk also examined EU policies and resolution of trade disputes between and among member states or any other organ of the (EU) body. The work also reviewed the process of “dialogue and détente”. The writers observed that the European Union has become a tool in the hands of more powerful members.

The EEC (EU) is a compromise between a weakened original six and self-asserting latecomers. Britain falls into the later category according to Leonard (1990). Leonard examined the composition of the EEC and the place of each member state in it.

As at the time Leonard published his book, the EU was still known as the EEC and was made up of twelve European nations. Leonard asserted that Britain, with states like France, Italy, and Germany has become dominate in the EEC and calls the shot.

He also appointed out that the leadership of the European commission and parliament has generally resided with the original six, though the self-asserting latecomer sates have from time to time asserted their influence. In leonard’s words, “this derives partly from the often outstanding ability of their representatives and their degree of organization”.

He posited that all EEC (EU) member states are firmly committed to the eradication of poverty from Africa.

However, this assertion is seriously doubt and subject to debate. He equally argued that the mere existence of the EEC has created a sense of unity and solidarity among member states especially in international issues, despite their very real differences.

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