Europe and Africa: Interests and values must be aligned with mutual respect

Adelaide, 28/08/2023: Stefan Liebing and Andreas Freytag have written a guest article for the Institute for International Trade at the University of Adelaide.

The comment raises the question of why African countries are not fully supportive of Russia’s Western isolation in the wake of the Ukraine conflict. It argues that this reluctance does not necessarily have to do with a lower respect for human rights in Africa or different views on the origins of the conflict in Ukraine. Rather, it is emphasised that African politicians are increasingly fed up with Western countries, especially Europe, lecturing and patronising them. Instead, they prefer neutrality and the pursuit of their own interests.

The authors argue that Europeans need to find a new approach to cooperation with Africa. Instead of relying on value-based politics, they should focus on interests and economic cooperation. European history in Africa, including the colonial period, still plays a role, as does the historical attachment of some African countries to Russia during the Cold War.

Africa’s key interests lie in trade and investment to create jobs for its growing young population. It is stressed that Europe needs to invest more in these areas to achieve closer ties with Africa. A strong international economic policy is seen as crucial.

Finally, three suggestions are made: European foreign policy should focus on common interests and not lecture Africa. Investment in Africa should be supported by a better distribution of risks between the public and private sectors. And bureaucratic hurdles to investment in Africa should be reduced.

Overall, it is argued that by strengthening economic cooperation with Africa, Europe can strengthen its relations without appearing paternalistic.

The full comment can be read here: