The challenge

Economic and political progress is transforming the face of Africa. Countries across the continent continue to experience steady economic growth and improved governance. However, they are still struggling to translate societal demands for change into concrete actions that strengthen democracy, human rights and inclusive development. 

For societal reforms to be truly consolidated, they need to be accompanied by institutions strong enough to support fundamental change and hold governments accountable. African institutions are increasingly recognising this and investing in building capacities within state and non-state actors to influence governance structures across the continent. International partners, such as the EU, also acknowledge the need for strong institutions in Africa and are making attempts to support actors such as civil society.

Continental structures, including the African Union, are growing more attentive to governance compliance at the country level and to the link between such compliance and stability. The African Governance Architecture (AGA), for instance, aims to promote the effective implementation of shared values in the areas of governance and human rights. Since the 'Arab Spring', the AGA has worked strategically to link governance to peace and security, in order to strengthen the AU’s own conflict prevention capabilities.

Nevertheless, there is still much progress to be made in terms of operationalising the AGA and enhancing links between governance and peace and security. The distance yet to be covered was emphasised in 2013 by events unfolding in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. The main challenge for Africa’s governments remains to respond effectively to socio-economic demands. This is a long-term task, but one which is key to delivering on the promises made in the wake of political uprisings. International partners, particularly the EU, are being called upon to rethink the way they support African dynamics. Within the changing landscape of international cooperation, they need to support African countries to ‘weave their own mat’ and come up with home-grown agendas for reform in the socio-political and institutional realms.

"Even with current growth rates, a quarter of Africans will still live below the poverty line in 2030. This is what should be on the agenda of African leaders: maximising the impact of economic growth to fight inequality, and supporting the gradual emergence of an active citizenry that can give a stronger push to development efforts."

Faten Aggad-Clerx, Head of the Africa's Change Dynamics programme (pictured)     

ECDPM's role

ECDPM’s Africa’s Change Dynamics programme cooperates with African institutional and non-governmental actors, supporting them in implementing their own policy agendas. Our aim is to improve understanding of the local dynamics of governance and to support alignment between African and European development agendas. We work towards this using typical ECDPM approaches such as promotion of dialogue between the different policy and societal actors in Europe and Africa, knowledge brokering through independent analysis and research, and facilitation of policy processes. Our work in 2013 was organised in three streams:
  • Supporting African local and regional governance dynamics
  • Reinforcing African institutional actors’ capacities to support change dynamics
  • Facilitating the Africa-EU partnership
Supporting African local and regional governance dynamics

Our engagement in this area is driven by the longstanding experience that development processes should first and foremost be propelled from within the country and from within the region. In Madagascar, we engaged in a reflection process that aimed to strengthen the capacity of civil society at the local level. We conducted a number of assessments looking at the different components required for a strong civil society, also identifying alternative sources of finances for local organisations.

In North Africa, ECDPM and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) jointly launched an initiative to support local and national reforms through political economy analysis. Our first country of focus was Tunisia, where we sought to understand the dynamics of local economic development and employment creation with a view to promoting dialogue for change between the key stakeholders. This work could provide a springboard for further reflections between the different actors at the local and national levels.

Reinforcing African institutional actor's capacities to support change dynamics

We supported African institutions’ efforts to promote positive change dynamics across the continent. The African Development Bank commissioned ECDPM to evaluate its support to governance institutions at the national and regional levels. The conclusions of that evaluation provided a basis for further reflection within the management of the Bank on its future direction.

We participated in various technical meetings of the AU Commission and supported AU efforts to operationalise the African Governance Architecture (AGA). Our contributions mainly took the form of knowledge brokering. For example, we shared examples of lessons learnt on the use of compliance mechanisms by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the EU, as well as approaches to promoting peace and the link between security and governance in African regional architectures. As such, the Centre contributed to strengthening African continental governance frameworks and linking them to other policy areas in which the AU has a strong added value, such as peace and security. 

Facilitating the Africa-EU partnership

The Fourth EU-Africa Summit, held in April 2014, provided new impetus for many stakeholders to think strategically about areas of future cooperation between Africa and Europe. We invested enormous effort in preparatory work and ‘quiet diplomacy’ in the lead-up to the Summit, producing a range of targeted publications on the future of the Africa-EU partnership. These included a thematic issue of ECDPM’s GREAT insights magazine on the Africa-EU partnership, featuring contributions from, amongst others, AU Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Our annual ‘Challenges Paper’ sought to situate debates concerning Africa-EU relations in their wider context, to facilitate as broad a stakeholder engagement as possible.

Finally, we launched a blog dedicated to reflections on Africa-Europe relations. The blog, featuring regular contributions from African and European stakeholders, has increased the visibility of our work on Africa-EU relations. As such, it has strengthened our position as recognised leader in brokering partnerships between the EU and Africa.

“ECDPM’s analysis carries highly useful information on the EU-Africa relationship.”
African Ambassador, Brussels

We facilitated several meetings to promote dialogue about the future of the EU-Africa partnership. In cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation we organised a conference in Berlin, bringing together some 40 senior officials from African, ACP and EU institutions and member states with participants from think tanks and civil society organisations from both continents. With the other members of the European Think-Tanks Group (ODI, FRIDE and DIE) we hosted a high-level conference on the future of Europe-Africa relations. This event included African and European stakeholders responsible for implementing various priorities in the EU-Africa partnership. The conference laid useful groundwork, and its outcomes were reflected in subsequent official events, such as the biannual collective task force meeting for the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). The AU Commission requested ECDPM to co-host a follow-up meeting, which was held in February 2014 in Addis Ababa.

“Congratulations on a well-organised, very successful and insightful conference. The conference was not only substantively rich, but more importantly also inclusive of all strands of opinions, and particularly views from Africa – which is mostly underrepresented, or undermined even when represented.”
Mehari Taddele Maru, Consultant at MATU Consult and former Head of Programme at the African Union and South African Institute for Security Studies 

Our regular exchanges with African and European stakeholders raised awareness in Africa of policy discussions in the EU, while also informing European policymakers of developments in Africa. For example, we kept African stakeholders informed about the Pan-African Programme, which is a financial envelope for Africa established under the EU’s Development Co-operation Instrument (DCI). The envelope will mainly finance continental and cross-regional initiatives in Africa within the framework of the Africa-EU partnership, especially the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES).