Renewing transatlantic partnerships with Africa


As the world grapples with pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the war in Ukraine, there is an urgent need for Africa, Europe, and the United States to work more closely than ever before on their common challenges in order to build a more secure and equitable future for all. That was the central message that emerged from a timely forum on a trilateral partnership between the US, African Union (AU), and the European Union (EU), hosted on June 16, 2022 by the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and Europe Center.  

“I hope Africans choose the United States and the EU as their partners of choice,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee. The conversation, held in collaboration with the Delegation of the EU to the United States, featured an array of distinguished leaders from Europe, Africa, and North America. It served as a follow-up to the AU-EU Summit held in Brussels on February 17, 2022. 

Here are some highlights, ranging from insights on economic investment and development collaboration to lesser-discussed ways in which the United States, EU, and AU can build a new transatlantic partnership.  

Watch full event

Security cooperation 

  • The impact of the war in Ukraine was a major area of concern for European, African, and US officials alike. “We are facing, indeed, the greatest global food security crisis of our time,” said Stavros Lambrinidis, EU ambassador to the United States, during his opening remarks. He noted the severe repercussions of Moscow’s aggression and military tactics in preventing the flow of grain exports from Ukraine, especially on African food access. Lambrinidis stressed the need for Europe, Africa, and the United States to “stand with and by each other.”  
  • As Africa continues to deal with its own regional conflicts, French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Étienne pointed to the ongoing transatlantic cooperation in the field of security “where the EU and the United States are very much aligned, especially fighting terrorist groups in the Sahel and unfortunately in other parts of Africa.” He went on affirm the need for the EU and United States to assist African security forces states in counterterrorism training. Étienne highlighted France and Ivory Coast’s new international counterterrorism academy near Abidjan as an example.
  • Phee discussed the United States’ role in the Horn of Africa, where American troops were recently deployed to Somalia. “The choice of a new prime minister, the recent revision of the AU mission in Somalia, support from outside actors like the United States to reinforce the security architecture, as well as support by US and EU to help Somalia and the Horn deal with the devastating drought that is affecting those countries—all those factors I think create an opportunity that we have not seen in a while for the Somalis to finally begin to move forward.” Phee also made note of developments in Sudan where “inspiring and amazing” leaders in civil society, the professional world, and among the youth are “saying they want their country to be a democracy.”
Hafou Toure Samb, Millenium Fellow at the Atlantic Council, speaking with H.E. Philippe Étienne, Ambassador of France to the United States

Social and youth empowerment 

  • AU Ambassador to the United States Hilda Suka-Mafudze called for greater “recognition of Africa as a global player,” and encouraged further action by AU partners to help strengthen the continent’s health and education capacities.
  • Themis Christophidou, director-general for education, youth, sport, and culture for the European Commission, outlined EU initiatives to “nurture people-to-people contact” between Europe and Africa including research and university partnerships, cultural and artistic exchange programs, and developing pathways for legal migration. She acknowledged the importance of investing in Africa’s youth calling them “the continent’s greatest asset.” 
  • In a similar vein, Scott Taylor, vice dean and professor for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, addressed the idea of ‘brain drain’ and explained why there should be greater focus on creating mechanisms for African talent, on the continent and abroad, to return to and stay in Africa so that they can contribute their global skills and expertise to local economies.  

Revitalizing investment 

  • Senegal’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations Cheikh Niang described the EU’s 150 billion-euro Global Gateway Investment Package as “an opportunity for Africa and Europe to strengthen development cooperation.” The initiative aims to help Africa accelerate its green transition, digital revolution, health and education systems, and job creation.
  • Arianna Vannini, principal adviser on international partnerships for the European Commission, explained the importance of this new investment commitment. “It does not aim at simply establishing a trade relationship; it doesn’t focus only on infrastructure,” she said. “It expands to human development, and it involves further dialogue with our partner countries, the local communities, the voice of partners on the ground and in particular the young generations which are such a key resource for a young continent like Africa.”
  • Abdoul Salam Bello, alternative executive director for the World Bank Africa Group, stressed the need for collaboration on how to implement large investment programs at the continental, national, and local level. He stated that the Global Gateway “will be a very good opportunity” as long as the national development plans of African states are fully considered, and increased attention is given to supporting the continent’s private sector because “that’s where the prospect of growth will be.”
  • Acting Assistant Administrator for Africa at the US Agency for International Development Diana Putman said that the US government was updating its Africa policy to enhance partnerships with African states and the African Union on issues of economic growth, health security, and climate change. “There is a clear commitment on the part of the different agencies to reset our relationship and make sure that Africans realize we see them as full partners.”

Narayan Felix is a young global professional at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center

The Africa Center works to promote dynamic geopolitical partnerships with African states and to redirect US and European policy priorities toward strengthening security and bolstering economic growth and prosperity on the continent.