1. / Home
  2. / Events

The future of EU-Africa relations

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 1 - A discussion of the state of play and outlook of EU-Africa relations.


Vera Songwe

Under-Secretary-General ; Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations

Amadou Hott

Minister of Economy, Planning, and International Cooperation, Senegal


Amadou Hott (Minister of Economy, Planning and International Cooperation, Senegal) who was unable to attend also gave prepared remarks following the session.

In this session on the first day of Bruegel’s 2021 Annual Meetings we were delighted to welcome Jutta Urpilainen (Commissioner for International Partnerships), Vera Songwe (United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa), and Masood Ahmed (President of the Center for Global Development) to discuss the EU’s renewed partnership with Africa, with a specific focus on human development (health, vaccines, education). Amadou Hott (Minister of Economy, Planning and International Cooperation, Senegal) who was unable to attend also gave prepared remarks following the session.


by Klaas Lenaerts

Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen presented the priorities of the Commission’s strategy on EU-Africa relations, which was adopted last year. Since the pandemic, health has become an increasingly important dimension. Fragilities in EU-Africa relations were exposed and collective solutions had to be found. The Commissioner highlighted the EU’s contribution to vaccination efforts in Africa through the COVAX scheme, as well as the humanitarian and economic assistance provided. The upcoming EU-Africa summit is an oppurtunity to renew the partnership.

UN Undersecretary-General Vera Songwe offered a critical view of the EU-Africa relations during the pandemic. She advanced that if both continents are truly intertwined, the divergence we have seen in terms of access to economic support and vaccine access cannot be condoned. Policy makers need to acknowledge that there is a problem and react to it: market forces did not work in supplying Africa with enough vaccines. There is no level playing field between Africa and the West, which has prevented exports and has been hoarding vaccines.

CGD President Masood Ahmed argued that in the next few years there will be a growing divergence between Europe, which will move its focus to inflation and climate change worries, and Africa, where the pandemic will continue throughout 2022. The pandemic has damaged the trust of African partners and created disillusion with the West’s engagement. Re-establishing trust will be difficult. The EU strategy is silent on financing the large infrastructure investment needs in Africa while Europe should play a bigger role in this. Investments in human capital are needed and the fragility of states must be addressed. Mr. Ahmed called upon policy makers to seize the upcoming summit to address the current shortcomings and see how the EU and Africa can work together.

The conclusion from the discussion is that while the EU has provided help to Africa during the pandemic, much more needs to be done, and mistakes must be acknowledged. The Commission intends to direct €30 billion of investments towards Africa in the coming years. The participants expressed hope that the next summit will allow EU and African leaders to get together to shape the global agenda trough ambitious cooperation.