In early March 2020, the EU presented its document “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa” proposing ten actions paving the way towards a new partnership with the African continent.1European Commission and EEAS. Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa (JOIN/2020/4), March 9, 2020. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=celex:52020JC0004. In addition to the ten actions, it “stated that coherence should be maintained between the proposed EU–Africa strategy and the legally binding agreements between the EU and African states [such as] the ACP–EU framework for the sub-Saharan states and the association agreements with North African states.”2Jones et al., EU Development Cooperation with Sub-Saharan Africa 2013-2018. Policies, Funding, Results. Maastricht: European Centre for Development Policy Management and Bonn: Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, 2020. https://ecdpm.org/?p=39662 However, the proposed new partnership strategy has faced criticisms. Critics point out the lack of clarity on how it will fit within post-Cotonou negotiations or the new financing mechanism that will replace the European Development Fund (EDF).3Amare, Tighisti. “Africa Needs a Strategy for Europe.” Great Insights 9, no. 3 (2020): 12-13. https://ecdpm.org/?p=40842. Overall, the new partnership strategy has been considered vague on how to maintain coherence between the already incoherent and inconsistent legally binding trade and development cooperation agreements between the EU and AU member states.4Resty Naiga. “AU-EU Trade and Development Partnership: Towards a New Era? FEPS Policy Briefs, 2021. https://www.feps-europe.eu/attachments/publications/211103%20policy%20brief%20aueu%20relations%20on%20trade%20and%20development.pdf The new strategy is also considered to be insufficiently aligned with African aspirations.5Amare, Tighisti. “Africa Needs a Strategy for Europe.” Great Insights 9, no. 3 (2020): 12-13. https://ecdpm.org/?p=40842. The process of developing the new partnership package lacked inputs from African key stakeholders such as the AU, which contradicts the aspiration of the partnership based on mutual interest.6Resty Naiga. “AU-EU Trade and Development Partnership: Towards a New Era? FEPS Policy Briefs, 2021. https://www.feps-europe.eu/attachments/publications/211103%20policy%20brief%20aueu%20relations%20on%20trade%20and%20development.pdf The ten proposed actions in the new strategy with the AU member states perpetuate an asymmetrical relationship instead of engaging the future and achieving mutual-interest-based cooperation.7Angela Brouwers and Elsa Le Ber, The Neo-Colonial Europeanization of Africa. A Post-Developmental Perspective on the Communication of the AU-EU Partnership, Master thesis, Uppsala University, June 3, 2020, http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:1445742.

In order to bridge existing knowledge and research gaps and generate evidence-based knowledge to inform the new comprehensive strategy with Africa in the third decade of the AU-EU partnership, a research project titled, “The future of AU-EU Cooperation: Towards a new era,” was organized by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) in collaboration with the Fondation Jean Jaurès (FJJ) and the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and funded by the European Parliament. The project was conducted between June and December 2021 to provide policy recommendations for the upcoming AU-EU Summit in Brussels, scheduled for 17-18 February 2022.8The essays from this Special Issue draw on the content and findings of  a Policy Briefs Series published by the  authors in October 2021, available at : https://www.feps-europe.eu/events/upcoming-events/809-the-future-of-au-eu-cooperation-towards-a-new-era.html The Series is part of the research project “The future of AU-EU cooperation: Towards a new era?”, organized by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) in collaboration with the Fondation Jean Jaurès (FJJ) and implemented with the support of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). The Policy Briefs were produced with the financial support of the European Parliament and do not represent the view of the European Parliament. The key guiding question was: is the current AU-EU partnership approach fit for a new era or does it still hold on to old paradigms? The question was analyzed across the three pillars of AU-EU cooperation: institutional relations, trade and development, and peace and security.

The articles in this special issue of Kujenga Amani build on the findings on the project (FEPS-FJJ-IAI) on AU-EU cooperation. Jacopo Resti (this issue) contends that AU–EU cooperation is at a crossroads and highlights the need to choose between perpetuating standard practices of cooperation or going beyond business as usual to unleash the full potential of a “partnership of equals” that would also provide the AU and the EU with the opportunity to lead multilateral cooperation and steer global governance in a post-COVID-19 era. This position resonates with the findings on the trade and development pillar where Resty Naiga (this issue) argues that such relations are highly asymmetrical. She also makes a case for overcoming the aid trap and achieving a mutually beneficial arrangement based on cooperation with emphasis on addressing the challenges impeding equitable trade and achieving a resilient and self-reliant Covid-19 recovery in Africa. Bernardo Venturi (this issue) points to the need to avoid over-militarized responses to African conflicts. He recommended basing future cooperation on the commitment of significant resources towards structural conflict prevention, peacebuilding, global climate crisis, human development, and institutional reforms. This Special Issue brings together the foregoing research findings, offering a timely snapshot of the state of AU-EU cooperation along with actionable recommendations to inform the new partnership through the Summit and beyond.

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