What next for EU-Africa relations?

Dieng“We are all developing countries in transition”, with these words, Prof. Dr. Ludger Kühnhardt, Director of the Center for European Integration Studies (ZEI) in Bonn, opened the 4th WAI-ZEI Study Group Meeting at the University of Avignon from 27-28 March 2014. He pledged for Africa and Europe to become learning communities, reflecting and learning from each other in order to gain new perspectives about bi-regional relations. Prof. Dr. Djénéba Traoré, Director of the West Africa Institute in Praia, Cape Verde (WAI), considered quality education as the key development challenge for Africa and urged the two regions to focus on win-win opportunities within the partnership. Prof. Samuel Priso-Essawe, University of Avignon, further added that the challenge of EU-Africa relations would be the disconnection of Africa to European societies as well as to its own interests, highlighting  the need for African governments to reconnect with civil society and the private sector in order to define external interests, or, as Dr. Félix N‘zué, Director of the Economic Policy Analysis Unit of the ECOWAS Commission, Nigeria, put it: “Africa needs a EU strategy”.

Shortly before the 4th EU-Africa Summit in Brussels, the workshop did not only provide academics and practitioners with the opportunity to develop fresh perspectives and practical solutions for the bi-regional partnership, but also highlighted the untapped value-added of regional integration efforts. The workshop particularly focused on comparative academic work in the EU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the fields of technology and innovation, energy and natural resources, as well as competition and regulatory policies for integrating trade in the service sector.

“Liberalisation does not equal deregulation. Instead, a liberalised market requires more regulatory efforts” highlighted ZEI Director Prof. Christian König in the specialised session on competition and regulatory policies. As private investors seek profits at supply bottlenecks, high prices can be good a indicator for mono- or oligopolistic market structures and, possibly, overregulation. Nevertheless, effective regulation in African markets is often contradicted by the lack of adequate data, lack of political will to implement existing regulations and the lack of regulatory monitoring by an independent judiciary. Further points of discussion within the research group on “Economic integration and regional trade” were the costs and benefits of service trade liberalization (which account for 60% of global GDP), adequate techniques and geographic modes (unilateral, bilateral, regional, bi-regional, multinational and plurilateral) to negotiate their liberalization, as well as the need to harmonize sectoral data to facilitate research and knowledge-based decision-making. There was a wide consensus among participants and guests that the sequencing of regulatory policies plays an important role, as otherwise domestic production risks to be replaced by foreign providers.

IMG 3908In the context of the research area on „Regional Integration and Policy Formulation Processes“, the challenges of regional energy policy as well as a regional policy for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) were discussed. One aspect of particular relevance was the use of regulatory and fiscal measures to support the implementation of policy goals. As a major obstacle, participants defined a lack of awareness for regulatory policies, e.g. the ECOWAS Energy Protocol, that are already existing in the region. This lack of awareness not only causes frictions between member states but also increases the costs of cross-border energy transport and contains investors. Against this background, it the case was made for an intensive awareness raising campaign. Comparing West Africa and Europe, it was argued that specific, tailor-made state-aid measures may also support development of technologies in West Africa in some cases. However, it was also warned to just copy the European approach of fiscal measures in the energy sector to other regions. The bi-regional energy relationship between Europe and West Africa was presented as increasingly interdependent. Also under the impression of the Crimean Crisis, it was plead for a reinvention of the political relationship of the two regions, which could also contribute to a further diversification of Europe´s energy supply. Furthermore, participants criticized the poor regional coordination in the field of STI in West Africa. As in other policy fields, in spite of far-reaching and ambitious goals, an adequate implementation of these goals is often missing. Therefore, a “Unified System of Innovation” was urged, in which STI would acknowledged as equal components of regional and national economic policies in Africa. 

The workshop was part of the research and consulting project “Sustainable Regional Integration in West Africa and Europe”, a co-operation of ZEI and the West Africa Institute in Praia, Cape Verde. The WAI-ZEI cooperation project is financed by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the years 2012-2016 as one of the lighthouse projects in transformation and education of the Ministry’s Africa Strategy. The next workshop will take place in September 2014.

The conference paper will be published as WAI-ZEI Papers in the course of the next months. Up to now, ten WAI-ZEI Papers and three Regional Integration Observers (RIO) were edited and are available for download here. Further aspects of the project are the establishment of a library of WAI in Praia and the elaboration of a specific Master Program in African Regional Integration in cooperation with the University of Cape Verde (UNI CV).

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