EU should work with China on Africa

Updated: 2014-05-10 09:44

By Anna Katharina Stahl (China Daily)

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is on his first visit to Africa since assuming office. He began his four-country tour in Ethiopia, where he visited the headquarters of the African Union. Li emphasized China's growing support for the AU, which recently became a member of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

At their meeting, the Chinese premier and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazna Dlamini Zuma expressed their wish to further strengthen China-AU cooperation. Most importantly, they announced the establishment of a new type of bilateral China-Africa Strategic Partnership.

The strengthening of Sino-African relations will have a great impact on the European Union, which considers itself Africa's traditional partner. The establishment of CASP comes just a few weeks after an EU-Africa summit in Brussels, where the EU vowed to "give a new momentum" to its relations with Africa and to build a partnership among equals.

Despite the positive summit declaration, the overall assessment of the current state of EU-Africa relations remains mixed. For example, South African President Jacob Zuma boycotted the Brussels summit to protest against what he said was patronizing EU behavior. He accused the EU of exerting pressure on the AU to choose which African states should attend the summit.

Also, African leaders denounced the EU's unilateral approach on a number of other issues, such as the Economic Partnership Agreements and the trial of African leaders by the International Criminal Court. The AU has said that the EU is forcing African countries to conclude EPAs despite indications that they could damage the industrial and agricultural sectors of certain African countries because of the competition from European imports.

Moreover, the current criminal proceedings at the ICC against the Kenyan leadership have stirred African sensitivities over sovereignty and self-determination. During an extraordinary summit, the AU called on its member states to circumscribe the jurisdiction of the ICC.

From the perspective of many African leaders, the EU has not changed its traditional way of engagement with Africa, expecting its African partners to comply with pre-defined European norms and practices, thereby contradicting its policy discourse of an Africa-EU partnership among equals.

The visit of Premier Li to Africa and China's offer of an alternative partnership puts pressure on the EU to readjust its relationship with Africa. Because of China's growing presence in Africa, many countries in the continent are seeking mutual partnerships with the EU.

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