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Africa’s Strategic Partnerships: prospects, Challenges and way forward

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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In an effort to move forward its development and integration Agenda and achieve its vision of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena”, the African Union, through its Commission has entered into strategic partnerships with countries and regions of the outside world, such as the Africa-EU and Africa-South America Partnerships (continent to continent partnership)- and the Africa-China (FOCAC), Africa-Korea, Africa-India and Africa-Turkey partnerships (continent to Country Partnership).

Africa has also entered in a strategic partnership with the Arab world, which dates back to 1977. The Africa-Arab Partnership, which is the oldest partnership that Africa entered into with the outside world, is a solidarity type of partnership, which focuses more on political, cultural and social issues. The partnership is also unique, in that it embraces nine countries that belong to both the African Union and the League of Arab States.

The Africa Union, through its Commission, is also a co-organizer of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), initiated by the Government of Japan in 1993, to promote a high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners. In this capacity the Union, through the Commission, undertakes negotiations with the Government of Japan and other organizers on behalf its Member States.

All the Africa's Strategic Partnerships are guided and monitored by periodic high level joint policy organ meetings such as Joint Summits, Ministerial and Senior Officials meetings, which are alternately hosted by Africa and the partners. The periodicity of meetings of the Joint Summits ranges from three to five years. At the end of each joint Summit, a Declaration and Plan of Action are adopted, summarizing the political commitments of the two sides and mapping out further direction of the Partnership. The Plan of Actions elaborate the agreed upon areas for cooperation until the next summit.

Africa's Strategic Partnerships aim at mobilizing the necessary financial and technical support for the implementation of Africa's regional and continental programs; including the recently adopted Agenda 2063 and its First Ten Year Implementation Plan. This, however, is by no means affecting engagements in bilateral relations between individual African countries and the AU Strategic Partners. Instead, the continental engagement with the partners would assist individual African countries to further build their bilateral relations and, attract and provide more investment and trade opportunities as well as other development programs.

Africa' Strategic Partnerships also provide a unique opportunity to maintain high level policy dialogue between leaders of Africa and the strategic partners, which are vital for narrowing gaps and, where possible, harmonizing positions on global and regional issues of common concern. The Partnerships also help to ensure Africa's full ownership of its own political and development agendas and mobilize support for Africa's request to assume its legitimate place at the international arena, including the request for permanent seats at the Security Council of the United Nations.

Combating terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy and protection of cultural heritages, as well as cooperation on migration and diaspora issues are also among the various areas of concern that Africa brings to and discusses with the Strategic Partners with the aim of finding joint solutions.

Although, Africa's Strategic Partnerships have proven themselves relevant in the past, at least by bringing together the high level policy organs of the two sides to discuss and resolve issues of concern to Africa on regular basis, their objectives, scope and modus operandi needs to be reviewed in order to make them balanced and more productive and action oriented.

Such review will also help to address the challenges that the African Union Partnerships programs are facing at the moment, which include lack of funding to implement agreed upon programs and projects; cumbersomeness of the Action Plans and absence of performance evaluation indicators and non-existence or inefficiency of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The extreme inclination to national projects and lack of specially dedicated window for financing regional and continental programs of the Union are also among the important issues to be addressed by the review.

As the request from countries and organizations for Strategic Partnerships with Africa is continuously on the rise, due to the fact that Africa has become the most reliable and attractive destination of the global investment, the review will also assist to curb the current practice, where partnerships are entered into on the basis of political decisions, and encourage a demand driven type of approach, which will be based on the needs of Africa and the comparative advantages of the Partners.

In view of the above and based on the directives of the AU Policy Organs, the African Union Commission in collaboration with the Sub-Committee on Multilateral Cooperation of the Permanent Representatives Committee of the African Union is in the process of finalizing the evaluation of the various Partnerships, in light of their relevance and effectiveness and value addition.

The evaluation, which is expected to be completed in June 2016, will also identify the specific areas of cooperation for each partnership, aligning them with the First Ten Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063.