On 24 January 2024, European faith-based organizations (FBOs) held an online dialogue with African faith-based organizational partners on the theme EU-Africa Partnership: How to foster Coherence, Credibility and Trust? This event, moderated by the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), was held in preparation for the EU-Africa Strategy on Joint Communication on a Strengthened Partnership with Africa, which was expected to be published sometime in the second quarter of 2024.

            This dialogue aimed to: 1) to analyze the current EU-Africa partnership (which policy, approaches, and initiatives are an obstacle to a coherent and credible partnership of equals? which are the positive aspects that should form the basis of the future partnership?) with African faith-based organizations, and 2) to formulate some policy recommendations for European policy makers on how the coherence, credibility and trust in the EU-Africa partnership could be fostered.

            As early as 13 December 2023, Brussels faith-based organizations discussed the theme for the topic. On 15 January, the concept note on the EU-Africa Partnership was finalized and later sent on 17 January to African faith-based organization partners who confirmed attending the event. The main organizations that convened this event were: Act Alliance EU, Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Baha’i International Community (BIC), Caritas Europa, COMECE, European Union – Christian Organizations for Relief and Development (EU-CORD), Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), and Pax Christi International. On this occasion, AEFJN helped draft the concept note and provided the background summary to trigger the discussion among the participating organizations.

A Background Summary of the EU-Africa Partnership

            This intercontinental consultation was a response to the cooling of diplomatic relationships between the EU and Africa in recent years. Since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU launched its Global Gateway Investment Package in December 2021 to strengthen EU’s sociopolitical and economic relationship with African regional partners through the theme “Two Unions, a joint vision.” This vision is a paradigm shift in the relationship between the two continents “from aid to a partnership of equals” to achieve sustainable and joint prosperity. Its actualization can be seen through the 6th European Union – African Union Summit: A Joint Vision for 20230 held on 17-18 February 2022 that committed to deliver the following actions from 2021-2030:

      • Global Gateway Africa-Europe Investment Package – with EUR 150 billion worth of grants and investment supported by the EU budget;
      • a renewed and enhanced cooperation for peace and security;
      • a renewed and enhanced cooperation on migration and mobility;
      • a commitment to multilateralism within the rules-based international order, with the UN at its core.

            Team Europe’s intention to expand its foreign cooperation as response to assist African countries’ capacity to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063. In consonance to the Global Gateway’s grand developmental program, the EU has launched its Regional Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (2021-2027) to fund projects in Sub-Saharan Africa by focusing six priority areas: 1) human development, 2) democratic governance, peace and security, culture, 3) green transition, 4) digital and science, technology and innovation, 5) sustainable growth and decent jobs, and 6) migration.[1] While these priority areas show what is Europe’s desire for Africa, it is an imperative to review their pertinent policies whether they are coherent to what the latter needs for integral development.

            However, as much as the EU Global Gateway Investment Package aims to achieve a “prosperous and sustainable Africa and Europe”, it has also been criticized for being just a rehash of previous projects in Africa. Even before the EU-AU summit in February 2022, the credibility and trust between the two continents have been weakened. For instance, EU was focused on dealing with migration issues while being reluctant to share vaccine patents to African countries during the pandemic.[2] The proliferation of terrorist groups and political instability brought by military coup d’etats in the Sahel region are ongoing issues since NATO’s bombing of Libya in 2011. Regional destabilization has forced African refugees to take the risk of migrating across the Mediterranean only to be confronted by an inhospitable anti-immigrant discourse in Europe. The recent COP 28 in Dubai further revealed the reluctance of some EU countries to be accountable for producing substantial carbon emissions that cause climate change. Climate change has led to greater desertification in Africa, further weakening the food security of peoples whose livelihoods are primarily based on agriculture. Instead of contributing to the loss and damage fund, fossil-fuel reliant economies have been buying forested lands in Africa in the name of carbon credits and carbon offset to protect their profit.[3] These practical examples on the ground speaks of a social reality that could hardly be called “partnership of equals”.

24 January 2024 EU-Africa FBO Dialogue

            Given that February has been the usual month to recall, rekindle, and reinforce Africa-Europe relations, other institutional events were also conducted from the two continents. Among these were a public hearing on The European Union’s Strategy in the Sahel on 23 January 2024, the EU-AU Human Rights Dialogue on Civic space in Africa and Europe: A Discussion with Civil Society in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the same date as this EU-Africa FBO Consultation, and the EU Sub-Saharan Africa Multi-Annual Indicative Programme consultation on 29 January 2024.

            The EU-Africa FBO consultation on EU-Africa Partnership was attended by some 60 participants from different African and European faith-based organizations. Following by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn’s pastoral cycle of see-judge-act, the following guide questions were thus proposed to the group: 1) How do you perceive the current situation of the Africa/Europe relationship? 2) Which of the current approaches, initiatives and events have contributed positively to, or rather undermined the coherence and credibility of a fair people-centred partnership of equals between the EU and Africa? 3) What is the specific contribution of religious and faith-based actors to a people-centred, fair and mutually beneficial partnership of equals between the EU and Africa, and how could policy-makers better tap into this potential?

            Among the concerns raised by the participants was that while there is the ambition to foster a stronger relationship between the EU and Africa, most of the discussions are at the elite level. Grassroot communities do not necessarily feel the effects of these intercontinental discussions due to difficulties in participation in the decision-making process and access to funding local projects.

            Given the uneven history between Europe and Africa, among the suggestions was to decolonize the relationship between the continents through “localization of aid” instead of using it to give “conditional aid” to African partners. The hypocrisy in Eurocentric-oriented developmental policies creates trust deficit, conflicts, and exploitation of Africa’s natural resources which do not lead to sustainable development and peace. As much as democracy is a shared political value, the participants also stated that Africans should be able to practice it according to their cultural values instead through political or ideological ideas that disrupt the African way of life (e.g. homosexuality). For this reason, Africa has perceived China and Russia as are more “effective” partners in giving solutions to Africa because they do not impose political or cultural values.

            Peace cannot be sustained without a human-development nexus. The concept of development and its underlying structures must be “decolonized” by redefining it to create a “neutral corridor” where Africa is not just in the receiving end or passive victims of economic policies. Participants stress that Africa is also capable of giving something of value to Europe. However, Africa does not yet have a strategy in its relations toward Global North countries. They have also observed that while European Christian organizations have good intentions for Africa, European politicians have a different agenda. In this regard, fair trade policies should be further promoted because the economic relationship between the two continents is on “unlevelled” ground. Due to poverty and inequality brought by the lack of inclusive policies, Africans are thus forced to emigrate.

Brussels FBOs: Future Directions

            After the EU-Africa FBO consultation, the convenors, as the participants suggested, saw the need to deepen and continue the dialogue between two groups to realize its observations and recommendations, which will be drafted later as a summary paper. At the 31 January meeting of Brussels FBOs, it was reported, however, that the European Commission decided to suspend its work on a Joint Communication on a Strengthened Partnership with Africa. Given this situation, Brussels FBOs deemed to continue the dialogue with the policy makers in autumn after the EU elections. Moreover, it is also planned to have a second call for EU-Africa FBO consultation sometime in March or April 2024 as a follow-up to the 24 January dialogue. In this regard, Brussels FBOs shall discuss the following questions for its next meeting: 1) what will be the main theme for the second FBO call, 2) identify the concrete cases to give specific examples to these observations and recommendations, and 3) the unique contribution of FBOs the public square compared to other civil society organizations (CSOs).

Dr. Lawrence S. Pedregosa

AEFJN Advocacy and Communication Officer



[1] Sub-Saharan Africa – European Commission (europa.eu)

[2] African and European Leaders Meet Against Backdrop of Enduring Problems – The New York Times (nytimes.com); EU and African leaders meet in Brussels to reset relations after turbulent COVID years | Euronews

[3] The new ‘scramble for Africa’: how a UAE sheikh quietly made carbon deals for forests bigger than UK | Carbon offsetting | The Guardian