The European Union, Africa & China in the Global Age
High growth rates in the last 15 years have led to the belief that Africa, traditionally the world’s poorest continent, will become ‘the China of the 21st Century’. At the same time, the African population will double by 2050, and so will its migration potential. In a context marked both by an above average pace of economic expansion and a booming population, an aging European Union (EU) will be directly confronted at its doorstep with all major developments, positive or negative, affecting the African continent. In view of such challenges, Europe needs to define an ambitious strategy beyond its traditional role of main development aid donor to contribute more effectively to African development and create the conditions for it to become sustainable. In contrast, China has embarked at an early stage into a large-scale economic cooperation with Africa. The proposed EU-EAC Network aims to promote a tripartite cooperation between the EU, Africa and China to create a favorable framework for sustainable development. It argues that the EU’s and China’s comparative advantages can complement each other for the mutual benefit of all three parties.
Alongside these trends, regional economic integration is rapidly taking shape with eight regional economic communities represented across the continent. The East African Community (EAC) is the oldest and most advanced of these nascent common markets. It is also one of the initiators and a member of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, a major trade and infrastructure development program launched in 2015. The EAC model of regional integration bears striking resemblance with the process undergone by the EU. Since the 1999 EAC Treaty to enhance trade cooperation and political relations, a Customs Union was launched in 2005, followed in 2010 by a Common Market with zero internal tariffs. Talks towards setting up a Currency Union with an East African Shilling started in 2011. The EAC has its own Legislative Assembly and Court of Justice. Plans to create an East African Tourist Passport are on underway. Establishing a sustainable economic and political bloc in the form of an East African Federation is high on the EAC agenda. However, local businesses often point out the gap between sound intentions and the work that remains to be done. In this context, EU and EAC signed a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in October 2014, which supports the EAC‘s ambitious integration project and gives its 5 member states large access to the EU Single Market.
In the EU-EAC acronym, ‘EAC’ refers to the two core agendas of the project: first, to the East African Community as an example of regional economic integration; second, to the broader context of ‘Europe, Africa and China’, to foster a research agenda and develop and promote a training program as follows:
- A training programon regional economic integration designed for EAC officers, based on lessons to draw from the EU model in the specific context of the EAC. The training program will be linked to the first research strand.
- A research agenda with two closely interrelated strands:
(1) The EU and Comparative Regionalism Studies with a focus on regional economic integration in Africa and in particular the EAC, in a comparative approach to the EU.
(2) EU-Africa-China relations with emphasis on developmental economics and mutual trade and development partnerships; attention will be devoted to the potential for an EU-China cooperation to contribute to the sustainability of African economic integration and development.
The Network’s objectives are:
- To provide academic expertise to the process of East African economic integration and enhance EU-EAC cooperation;
- To promote the principle of a tripartite European, African and Chinese cooperative approach to making mutual trade agreements and supporting sustainable development in Africa;
- To foster the dialogue between academia and policy-makers in Africa, the EU and China;
- To secure a wide-reaching impact through publications in leading international journals and beyond academia through electronic media with global reach;
- To expand the reach of Jean Monnet Actions and encourage the promotion and diversification of EU Studies in Africa by actively engaging with local scholars and doctoral students.
The Network brings together a team of European, African and Chinese scholars, young African researchers, of which several are promising East African female researchers, and two high level honorary participants. It combines rich expertise on: EU studies, African studies, EU-Africa-China relations, international relations and foreign policy analysis, trade, developmental economics, management, leadership and sustainable development, comparative regional economic integration, political studies, peace and security studies. It involves three Jean Monnet Chairs from 2 UK business schools and 1 Greek University, and African Higher Education partners in each EAC country. It also includes the UNESCO Chair of the University of Burundi, and one of the top African think tanks specialized in leadership and sustainability issues. In addition to the above combined expertise, the Network prides itself for having two high level researchers as honorary members: Dr Frannie Léautier, former Vice-President of the World Bank, Head of the World Bank Institute, former Partner and CEO of Mkoba Private Equity of African Capacity Building Foundation, and currently Senior Vice-President of the African Development Bank Group in Abidjan who was recently listed among the 100 most influential people in Africa; and Professor Hany Besada, UN Regional Adviser at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa. He sat on the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel Secretary on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in New York.
The Network counts several young academics among its members, in particular two early career female active researchers as partners in Rwanda and Uganda. Furthermore, the participation of young researchers in EU-related themes will be fostered, first, through the local workshops that will take place in each of the five partner institutions. Local young scholars will be invited to present papers in these workshops. Selected contributions will lead to invitations to young scholars to present their papers at one of the four planned international conferences and contribute to subsequent publication plans.
The Project includes four conferences :
- In Tanzania on regional economic integration in the EU and the EAC in a comparative perspective;
- In Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) with a focus on development cooperation with the EU and China from an African perspective;
- At the European Parliament in Brussels (Belgium) on EU-Africa-China relations from a European perspective;
- In Beijing and Shandong (China), to offer a Chinese perspective on the prospect of a shared cooperation with Europe in Africa.
The training program will run once in each of the five EAC countries. At the same time, thematic workshops will be organized and will coincide with the timing of the training. Each workshop will be linked to the main objectives of the network in order to integrate local researchers of the 5 EAC countries into the research, stimulate interest in EU studies and encourage a new generation of teachers in EU-related themes. Participants will be encouraged to present papers at the four conferences and contribute to the subsequent publication of research outputs.
Read more about the project here.