The European Business Council for Africa

ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation

This weekend, African leaders will gather in Addis Ababa for the 32nd summit of the African Union (AU), with forced displacement within Africa as the meeting’s main theme.

This summit and its agenda provide the perfect backdrop for our Weekly Compass.

Egyptian President El-Sisi will be chairing his first AU summit. As always, the question on everyone’s mind is whether leaders are really willing to develop truly continental policies, beyond national perspectives, along with an intercontinental approach with Europe. However, as we saw last week, on all this North Africa seems ambivalent. This week we examine why mixed messages from Europe might explain North Africa’s lukewarm attitude.

Whether Egypt will choose to continue the energetic push for African Union reforms, which characterised Rwanda’s Presidency, also remains to be seen. Kesa Pharatlhatlhe and Jan Vanheukelom have spent quite some time analysing the AU’s finances. They discovered that behind the dry numbers lies a political story that reveals the scale of the changes needed in the hearts, minds and wallets of the main contributors.

It is fitting that the AU is focusing on forced displacement, as the EU will still be grappling with migration issues in 2019. The big question mark will be the European Parliament elections, as Anna Knoll tells us in the second contribution to our Challenges Paper blog series.

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The Week of 25 January – 1 February 2019

Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts

Cameroon: Opposition leader Maurice Kamto and 200 members of his party, Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), were arrested and detained this week. Crisis Group expert Richard Moncrieff says the country has crossed a dangerous new line in the restriction of public liberties, and the opposition’s mounting frustration and anger could fuel further unrest on the streets.

Philippines: Following the 21 January plebiscite endorsing the new Bangsamoro Autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a cathedral bombing in Sulu province that killed at least 22 soldiers and civilians. Crisis Group expert Matt Wheeler says multiple actors have the capacity for such an attack and the bombing serves as a reminder that spoilers have haunted every major stride in the 40-year peace process.

Iran: European powers began the formal process of registering the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a financial mechanism aiming to preserve European trade with Iran in the face of unilateral U.S. sanctions. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the SPV is a key component of Europe's efforts to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal, but it is neither a panacea nor likely to become fully operational upon its registration.

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ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation

Egypt will be the second North African country to chair the African Union this year, exactly ten years after Gaddafi’s Libya. So much has happened since. Accordingly, also the relationship that ‘Arab Africa’ has with the rest of the continent and with the European Union has evolved in these years. To examine the shifting roles and priorities of North Africa and of the political actors that have influence in the region, we wrote two papers. The first one, published this week, looks at Europe-Africa relations from a North African viewpoint. Keen to keep the special rapport with the EU, while at the same time looking to increase their economic ties with Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa does not seem too enthusiastic about the much-touted continent-to-continent approach.

For the European Union, these days North Africa has often been associated with migration, as the region is a key channel to Europe. As a follow-up to the publication of our Challenges Paper, now also available in French, we looked at those trends in Africa’s migration policies that are likely to surface in the coming months.

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Paru aux éditions Eyrolles, le nouveau livre des Cahiers du CIAN, Les diasporas africaines. accélératrices des économies du continent, dresse un panorama inédit de ces diasporas et de leurs puissantes retombées sur le continent africain.

Alors que l’Afrique enregistre une croissance durable et bénéficie de sauts technologiques grâce au digital, les 3,5 millions de personnes que comptent les diasporas africaines de France se tournent de plus en plus vers le continent pour prendre part à cette dynamique.

Beaucoup de projets, d’initiatives entrepreneuriales ou associatives voient ainsi le jour, des fonds importants sont investis. Mais quel est l'effet réel pour le continent ?

En 2018, à l’initiative du CIAN, les journalistes Bénédicte Châtel et Anne Guillaume-Gentil ont enquêté pour mieux cerner la réalité économique des diasporas africaines de France, leurs motivations et aspirations ainsi que leur impact sur le continent.

« Sur le rôle des diasporas, nous vivons une prise de conscience et une évolution profonde et définitive des états d’esprits, estime Etienne Giros, président délégué du CIAN. Il reste à les transformer en réalités et réalisations pratiques, en faveur du développement de l’Afrique. Le secteur privé français, et le CIAN en particulier, est prêt y prendre sa part. Ce livre en est le témoignage. »

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The Week of 18 – 25 January 2019

Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts

Central African Republic: The government and fourteen armed groups began negotiations in Khartoum this week against a backdrop of lethal clashes and a worsening humanitarian situation. Crisis Group expert Richard Moncrieff says the main risk is less that the Khartoum talks fail to reach an accord than that its provisions are not enforced on the ground, as has been the case with many previous deals.

Israel-Iran: Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed Israeli airstrikes hit Iranian military targets in Syria on Monday, one day after Israel intercepted a missile attack allegedly fired by Iranian forces. Crisis Group expert Ofer Zalzberg says Netanyahu hopes his rare admission of the daylight raid will signal to Iran that Israel’s resolve has not diminished following President Trump’s announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

South Sudan: Ugandan government forces deployed in South Sudan’s restive Central Equatoria region last week amid a heavy military build-up from the South Sudanese government. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says hostilities are escalating between Juba and armed groups that remain outside of the peace deal, and signs suggest a new offensive has already commenced.

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ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation

In just over two months, the United Kingdom should withdraw from the European Union. Whether it is going to happen, and if so, how, is still completely unclear. Westminster is at a complete impasse and the saga continues. The 26 pages, known as the Political Declaration that accompanies the lengthy Withdrawal Agreement, is supposed to give an overview of what the relationship could look like in the future. But as things are so uncertain, should we simply assume that the Declaration is dead in the water? In their blog for the Brexit Institute, Emmanuel De Groof and Andrew Sherriff argue this would be a mistake, as the document still offers a good starting point for a range of options for future EU-UK cooperation.

And while Brexit might keep many in Europe awake at night, the worsening situation in Zimbabwe and the latest news coming out of the DRC with the contested election results, are certainly reasons for concern for all hoping to see a further push for reforms on the African continent. Surely, there will be a lot to talk about at today’s EU-AU ministerial meeting in Brussels.

In the Challenges Paper that we published last week, the prospects for reforms played a prominent role. In the next months, we will do a series of videos and blog posts to keep it up to date. We start this week with a video interview with Mirjam Blaak, the Ugandan Ambassador to the EU and the Benelux. If you wish to join the discussions on the key moments for Africa-Europe relations in 2019, join us at the launch of the Challenges Paper, co-organised with the Finnish Permanent Representation, on 29 January in Brussels.

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The Week of 11 – 18 January 2019

Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts

Kenya: On Tuesday, Al-Shabaab militants killed at least 21 civilians in an attack on a Nairobi hotel and office complex. Crisis Group expert Abdullahi Abdille says Al-Shabaab chose a target in Kenya’s capital surrounded by Western embassies because previous attacks concentrated in Kenya’s northern counties have not yielded the attention it normally craves.

➤ Libya: A four-month-old UN ceasefire in Tripoli broke down on Wednesday after clashes erupted between rival armed groups. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says continued instability in the capital is likely to hinder any progress toward a political settlement and will most likely delay UN efforts to host a national conference with rival Libyan groups.

➤ Zimbabwe: Violent protests across Zimbabwe were met with a repressive clampdown this week, with many shot, assaulted or detained. Crisis Group expert Piers Pigou says the government blames the opposition, NGOs and foreign backers for orchestrating the unrest, but a massive fuel price hike and accelerated deterioration of economic and social conditions has catalysed anti-government sentiment.

➤ Yemen: On Wednesday, the UN security council passed a resolution that increases the number of monitors in Hodeida overseeing implementation of the ceasefire deal agreed in Stockholm. Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury says this was necessary because the Stockholm agreement, under pressure from all sides, needed a boost in the form of a display of international consensus.

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West Africa Brief

1-15 January 2019| PDF


  • Burkina Faso, Mali: a bloody start to the New Year
  • UEMOA celebrates its 25th anniversary
  • Niger, EU start work on Zinder-Tanout road
  • Guinea: Controversy about the new polygamy law
  • Ready to help? Improving resilience of integration systems for refugees...
  • Focus on agriculture and agricultural policies in Mali
  • A quiet revolution: more women seek divorces in conservative West Africa
  • What future for the Sahel?
  • René N’Guettia Kouassi, Director of Economic Affairs, African Union Commission
  • Polygamy remains common and mostly legal in West Africa

2018 was a year of continued diverging economic, political and security trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Ethiopia, the appointment of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has led to a number of sweeping changes, including a move towards multiparty democracy, improvements in strained relations with neighbours, and the opening up of the economy to increased private investment. But as indicated by the 2018 Mo Ibrahim Index, political freedoms and civic space are reducing in sub-Saharan Africa: in Uganda the arrest and torture of Bobi Wine, the well-known critic of long-time president Yoweri Museveni, and several other MPs; and in Tanzania, targeted assassinations of opposition party members, restrictions on protest and the closure of media outlets, are among a number of prominent examples.

Elections across the continent led to peaceful and democratic transfers of power in some countries and triggered violence or political crisis in others. In January, George Weah was sworn in as President of Liberia, following the December 2017 elections that resulted in a remarkable peaceful transfer of power from one party to the other. Former opposition leader Maada-Bio of Sierra Leone was elected President after narrowly defeating Samura Kamara, from the then-governing All People’s Congress party, in a presidential runoff. In Cameroon, Paul Biya secured a seventh term, extending his 36 years in power amid unrest and separatist militants attacks in the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta took office for a second five-year term despite low voter turnout due to security concerns, while in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner after securing 50.8 per cent of votes against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, in a national election marred by post-election protests and violence. Meanwhile in South Africa, Jacob Zuma resigned and was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as president.

A full review of Africa Programme work in 2018 can be found here