The EU-Africa summit postponed in 2020 will eventually take place on February 17-18, 2022. Before this summit, there have been other summits in the past. The first took place in Cairo, Egypt, in 2000, followed by Lisbon, Portugal, in 2007; Tripoli, Libya, in 2010; Brussels, Belgium, in 2014; Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire in 2017, and here again in Brussels 2022. Besides the EU-Africa summit, other ongoing meetings between Africa and other nations and regions worldwide include China-Africa, France-Africa, Middle East-Africa, Turkey-Africa, Russia-Africa summits, and others. A curious mind could begin to wonder about what is in this poor continent arousing the particular interest from every Dick, Tom, and Harry? The droves of summits with Africa, organized by the big economies, without active participation of Africa, coupled with the non-improving poor state of the continent, awaken unpleasant memories.

What has suddenly made Africa such a beautiful bride that every suitor is asking for its hands in marriage? Yet, the media spills over with gory images of her poverty, climate crisis and Africa’s children dying every day in the Mediterranean Sea as they search for a better life in Europe? Who in his proper sense would want to carry the burden of Africa unto himself without dully engaging the Africans themselves? Interestingly, the common denominator in the so-called quest for partnership with Africa is to change her fortunes so that her children would live in dignity and she occupies her rightful among the committee of nations. While interrogating the paradigm shift or the significant contributions that the proliferation of summits has made to Africa, your guess is as good as mine as what constitutes the summits’ shadow drivers.

As the primary attention of this piece of writing is the EU-Africa partnership, it might be helpful to take a bird’s eye view to see to what extent the EU-Africa partnership has contributed in responding to the aspirations of the African peoples. In the absence of concrete indicators, the partnerships have impoverished African peoples’ general experience. The indices of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution show that the EU’s contribution to the vaccine needs of Africa is abysmally insignificant. EU has fully vaccinated more than 65% of its population against the virus and has enough secured for the future. However, less than 6% of the African population has so far got the vaccines. While many countries now produce the vaccine, the WHO is still hesitant about approving African vaccine innovations; not one is good enough! Sadly, the nations partnering with Africa prefer to send expiring vaccines instead of supporting local efforts.

One of the predictions at the onset of the pandemic was that the corpses of the African people would litter the streets, and it all looked sure to happen because of the continent’s poverty. Not even the looming threat of extermination moved the EU and other allied African suitors to rally to its aid. Africa, the partner of the wealthiest economies, waited for doomsday as the pandemic swept through the globe; only providence came to its aid! Yes, just as providence chases away the flies for the tailless cow, it remains a mystery, even to the soothsayers, how Africa survived the calamitous predictions.

Indeed, the EU-Africa partnership has not contributed meaningfully to the aspirations of Africa and its peoples. On the contrary, it has become a vehicle for acerbating land and natural resource grabbing, climate emergency, food crisis, insecurity, migration, displacements of people, corporate impunity, and systematic violations of the rights of the communities. The arrangements smack the infamous Berlin Conference (1884), which formalized the Scramble for Africa. The experience of the process leading to the forthcoming summit confirms that the partnership is a reload of the colonial mentality to continue the exploitation spree of Africa in new terminologies. It is in the public domain that the EU unilaterally put together the agenda for the summit. The effort of the Our Land is Our Land[1] (OLOL) platform to contribute to the plan did not yield any meaningful result despite openings for dialogue between the platform and European External Action Service (EEAS) and the African Union (AU), respectively. As if to adopt a damage control to the situation, the office of the DG International Partnership (INTPA) of the European Commission created the CSO and Africa Authority local authority (LA) FORUM for the summit, which has no structural link to contribute to the official EU-Africa summit. The request of the Civil Society for the draft of the EU-Africa summit documents, especially the EU investment plan to be announced during the discussion, have been refused. Of course,  the broader spectrum of Civil Society understands the CSO and the LA FORUM as a smokescreen to massage their ego and distract them from the events of the official EU-Africa summit.

In the face of this subterfuge, AEFJN and other actors in the platform of OLOL wish to reiterate that “Everything done for the African people, without the African people, is done against the African people”. In this vein, OLOL has chosen to hold an African People’s Summit on 13 and 14 February as a counter-summit to the EU-Africa Summit, which is to be held in Brussels on 17 – 18 February 2022. The People’s Summit (PS) is African-driven and led and a space to continue to voice the genuine concerns and demands of Africa’s people and expose the failure of the Africa-EU Summit and the Partnership to address these concerns. The People’s Summit remains part and parcel of the ongoing campaigns of African civil society for land justice, the advancement of agroecology, just governance and the denunciation of corporate control while advancing the genuine aspirations and concerns of African peoples. If indeed the EU is keen on having a partnership with Africa that puts African peoples and her environment at the centre, the participation of the people in the process cannot but be an ancillary option. Unpleasant as it sounds, it appears like another scramble for Africa is unfolding in a new guise. Again, Europe is a significant stakeholder, but many other wealthy nations are complicit. African thinkers are looking to Europe for a re-write and not repeat the painful past.


Chika Onyejiuwa

[1] OLOL is an informal space for civil society, social movements and faith based organizations to build synergies and come together in solidarity and fraternity to amplify the voices of African communities struggling for the protection of their land, environment and God given natural resources, which is intrinsically tied to their human identity.