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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Où va l’Europe-Afrique?

by Chrystel Le Moing

Whither Europe-Africa?

Translated Thursday 6 March 2008, by Isabelle Métral

Which way is the old Europe-Africa relation heading? Last January in Dakar the Gabriel-Péri foundation [1] and Senegal’s Parti de l’indépendance et du travail (independence and labour party) organized an international conference entitled "Africa and Europe in the new world politics".

Eminent researchers, political executives and social actors gathered in Dakar for an analytical and prospective examination of the new dynamics at work across the continent and the consequent changes in the continent’s relations to its historical partner: Europe.

The liberalization of the global economy, the emergence of China and India as the new driving forces of world growth, the reorientation of US and European African policies, all these point to Africa’s new geo-political and geo-strategic importance. To Lamine Diallo, researcher and president of Tekki, Senegal’s new political leftist party, Africa is at a crossroads. Whereas Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria have proved their capacity to become “emerging countries”, the other countries are slow in asserting themselves. The African continent is still characterized by “its weakness as a political entity”. Plans for continental unity are polarized between a continental government and a federal government of the United States of Africa. And yet globalization makes it necessary for Africa to put up a political front.

As Europe finds it difficult to push through its own integration process on democratic foundations, it sometimes fails to further African countries’ efforts in that direction. According to European deputies of the Group for the Unitarian Left Francis Würtz (president of the group) and Helmut Markow (president of the external trade committee) negotiations over Economic Partnership Agreements between Europe and Africa have shown the former to be mindful of its own interests. African States can nevertheless channel foreign appetites. Sophie Bessis, head of research at IRIS (international and strategic relations institute) emphasizes the fact that “globalization does not invariably apply the same economic rule to all countries worldwide” and that “African countries must protect their home markets” (as the old European countries themselves always do) in order to strengthen their own endogenous factors of development, notably in agriculture.

It is urgent for African countries to put the basic questions about growth in strategic terms: to define the role of the State, to draft public policies in conjunction with socio-economic actors, and to develop productive activities.

Another subject of debate was the presence of China in Africa. Although it was extolled by its ambassador, who met the numerous objections of the “western camp” and a few Africans to “the Chinese threat”, it does occasion widespread alarm. Cheaper Chinese manufactured products now flood African markets: if consumers are satisfied, as their purchasing power is declining, African producers and tradesmen complain about what to them is unfair competition. Still, the repeatedly disappointing results of cooperation with traditional partners like France and the European Union have led African States to turn to new horizons. In line with the movement of resistance initiated against the Economic Partnership Agreements, it belongs to African governments, Moustapha Niasse, Senegal’s prime minister and president of the Alliance des forces de progrès (the progressive forces’ alliance) explained, to defend their peoples’ interests and their policies for sustainable development in the face of foreign actors.

As the political levers for change cannot be dissociated from the progress of democracy, a large part of the debates were devoted to the plight of democratization in Africa: the representatives of political parties from a score of African countries all bemoaned massive, institutionalized electoral fraud, and the controversial role played by national electoral commissions and international observers.

As these debates call for further discussion, the Gabriel-Péri foundation proposed strengthening the links between participants in order to spread information and pool experiences and analyses. The network’s objective will be jointly to work out new lines for the Africa-Europe partnership and the improvement of living conditions on the continent.

Chrystel Le Moing is project leader with the Gabriel-Péri foundation.

[1The Gabriel-Péri foundation, named after a prominent historical figure of the French Communist Party, is a think tank that sets itself the task of developing the rich heritage accumulated in the course of labour and ideological struggles and of proposing new ideas for the renovation and dynamism of the struggle for social transformation.


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