The Role of Young People in the Africa-EU Partnership

The Role of Young People in the Africa-EU Partnership

By Flavio Previtali

The relationship between Europe and Africa is complex and has a long and unique history. It is an intense relationship rooted in economic, political, social, institutional and cultural ties interaction, characterized by a series of different phases and by multiple layers concerning the countries involved. It has its foundations in colonialism. The EU as an institution has shown interest in Africa since the very beginning of the integration process on the basis of geographic proximity and colonial legacy. Back in 1950, the Schuman declaration, which led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, mentioned Africa’s development as one of the main tasks of the new institution. This paper will analyze the Africa-EU partnership by looking at one specific aspect: youth. It takes into account discourses and actions included in the continental partnership. This is considered relevant due to the overwhelming disparities in population growth between the two continents, while European population is decreasing and aging, Africa is the youngest continent. According to UN data, 41% of African population is under 15 years old while the whole continental population will double by 2050, reaching 2.5 billion. What’s the role that young people play in the partnership? How has it evolved over time? What are the perspectives? Are the main questions addressed in the paper.



A mixed method of analysis was used to interpret the data collected. Qualitative document analysis was applied to the primary sources collected. This method was used in combination with interviews, as a way of triangulation of information. This is useful to build credibility and corroborate findings. This approach to the data analysis was chosen due to the main interest of this paper, changes and evolution. They are, in fact, crucial elements detected by Qualitative Document Analysis. The research used documents produced by institutions and international organizations, mainly the EU and the AU as primary sources for analysis. They were complemented by a series of experts interviews that were conducted mostly between May and July 2018 with officers working for the African Working Group at the Council of the EU and experts from Universities and international think tanks.

The Africa-EU partnership

The continental partnership is the result of the so-called “Cairo process”. The meeting organized in 2000 in Cairo under the aegis of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was the first EU-Africa meeting. It brought together for the first time the heads of states of the African countries and the EU and created the basis for a continent-to-continent relationship. It was an attempt to bring coherence to a very fragmented landscape of tools and policies like the Barcelona process (involving Northern African Countries); the Cotonou Agreement (involving sub-Saharan states) or the trade and development agreement with South Africa. In the following step, a joint Africa-EU strategy was adopted at the 2007 summit in Lisbon to set an agenda for the partnership. Unfortunately, the new document never represented a new comprehensive strategy but was simply added to the other existing frameworks. In this sense, it made the legal framework for cooperation even more complex.

The continental summits

The continent-to-continent relationship finds its main expression in high-level summits which are organized every 3-4 years in order to discuss the status and perspective of the partnership. The last one took place on the 29-30 of November 2017 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Although it was the fifth continental summit, it was the first directly involving the African Union and the European Union as continental entities. The summit was anticipated by a joint communication published by the European Commission and the External Action Service in May 2017, which launched the thematic focus on youth as an element of novelty in the partnership discourse.

Youth in the Partnership

Youth in the official documents

When looking at the official documents produced since 2007 in the framework of the partnership, it is interesting to see the evolution of the use of youth as a strategic target group. In the Lisbon Strategy, youth and young people are openly mentioned as a category inside the partnership only in a few paragraphs (55,56,57) under the key area 4, development issues, in the section entitled “Human and social development”. Paragraph 56 affirmed the commitment to “the empowerment of Europe’s and Africa’s Youth”, with a specific focus in assisting youth and children in (post-) conflict situations. The other two paragraphs concern job opportunities, particularly: “Investments in private sector development will be promoted, looking in particular to youth and women” and the access to education. [1]

Youth as a group was otherwise indirectly addressed by the commitment to promote a people-centered partnership, “empower non-state actors and create conditions to enable them to play an active role in development, democracy building, conflict prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction processes.”[2] Furthermore, in the chapter dedicated to the institutional architecture, a section is dedicated to civil society, a broad definition for non-institutional actors of which youth is a part. The partners recognized that the joint strategy should be co-owned by non-institutional actors and committed for the promotion of civil society organizations and dialogue between them and public authorities. [3]

The following formal meeting took place in Tripoli in 2010. In a three pages declaration published after the summit, young people are openly addressed in only one statement in the paragraph dedicated to globalization and economic crisis by affirming a: “joint effort especially in encouraging investment growth, creating employment and work for the young generations entering the labor market, notably in Africa.”[4] The action plan adopted for the years 2011-2013 does not mention directly youth as a specific target group but refers to investments and commitments on education. Furthermore, attention was given to mobility of students and academics, with an agreed position to “reinforce existing programs such as Erasmus Mundus, Edulink and Nyerere, together with initiatives such as the Pan-African University and Turning Education Structures and Programmes.”[5]

Under the Erasmus + framework, European institutions can form partnerships with universities in Africa. The continent is divided into three regional budgets that counted for the 14,5% of the worldwide budget: one for North Africa, one for South Africa and a third one for the African-Caribbean-Pacific countries. For the years 2015-2017, 770 projects were implemented organizing mobility for 9 700 Africans (5445 learners and 4259 staff), while only 4381 Europeans (1314 learners and 3067 staff) moved to the African continent. For what concerns Erasmus Mundus programmes, 62 African institutions have been involved in partnerships, most of them from South Africa or North Africa, while in the period between 2014 and 2017 African students received 643 grants, representing the 11% of the worldwide grants attributed.[6] In the framework of Erasmus+, also capacity-building projects were implemented with the aim to link education, innovation and research to create jobs and development. A couple of significant initiatives were the JAMBO projects for women empowerment, mostly dedicated to gender equality, and CLICK, a project aiming at breaking the digital divide by helping young people from developing countries to learn more about technology and its use.[7]

(Source: European Commission, fact-sheet – EU-Africa cooperation through Erasmus+, 2018

(Source: European Commission, fact-sheet – EU-Africa cooperation through Erasmus+, 2018

The Brussels meeting in 2014 was characterized by a stronger business-like approach with a focus on investments and trade. The summit thematic focus was in fact, “investing in people, prosperity and peace” to also reaffirm the element of a “partnership for people”. [8]In the final declaration, an entire section was dedicated to “people” and it was at that point that youth was addressed. A strong focus was given to protection and implementation of Human rights, a topic highly stressed also in the African Youth Charter. Among other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees and women, also youth and children were explicitly mentioned as targets. The youth was later mentioned again in relation to job creation, entrepreneurial potential, vocational training and education. The parties agreed “to give adequate attention to the development of productive capacity with a particular emphasis on youth empowerment”.[9] The following roadmap approved for the years 2014-2017 modified the priority areas of collaboration from eight to five, giving increased importance to human development and sustainable and inclusive development. The first cited area does not mention youth as a category but affirms the strategic objective to strengthen “the links between education, training, science and innovation”[10], while the second one, underlines the need to mobilize the potential of young people and women.[11] The Brussels summit saw a significant increase in the use of the word youth as a precise target group in the partnership as well as in related topics such as protection of human rights and jobs creation.

In March 2017, a joint communication from the Commission and the External Action Service was launched as a pre-summit document to underline the EU strategy towards Africa. The communication proposed a revitalized framework for the partnership that “pays particular attention to the aspiration and needs of youth, whose involvement in the overall process will be strongly encouraged.”[12] The document underlines the different demographic trend between the two continents and stresses the need for the creation of millions of jobs, especially for young people. Furthermore, the participation of people, particularly young people and women in the decision-making processes was highlighted as a new important element. According to the document: “Inclusive participation of citizens in public decision making and in particular the involvement of youth and women in formal political processes will increase trust in state institutions.”[13] Ultimately, by quoting directly the Agenda 2063 (The AU agenda for goals to be reached in Africa in the next fifty years)[14] and its visions, the document stresses the importance of involving and investing in youth in many different priority areas, from peace and security issues to good governance, education and mobility. Concerning this last aspect, the EU supports initiatives for regular intra-African migration, while it has a more controversial approach to intra-continent mobility.[15] However, the document was an entirely EU product and for this reason, reinforced the perception for the African partners that it is indeed a one-way dialogue. The perception was confirmed by the Valletta Summit in 2015[16]. It was wanted by the Europeans because of the refugee crisis and dominated by a European agenda focused on security, return and readmission issues.[17]

A final step analyzed in this section is the Abidjan summit of 2017. The fifth Africa-EU summit organized at the end of November 2017, went under the thematic focus of “investing in youth for accelerated inclusive growth and sustainable development” with the object to bring concrete benefit for young people and future generations. The final declaration pointed out that investing in youth is “a pre-requisite for building a sustainable future” and the heads of states agreed to “empower young people, both girls and boys, as well as women, to participate in political, economic and social life, on equal terms, to their full potential”.[18]

The document defines four strategic priorities for the period leading to the new summit: (1)Investing in people; (2) strengthening resilience, peace, security and governance; (3) migration and mobility and (4) mobilizing investment for Africa.[19] Investing in people (previously called human development) gained position number one among the priority areas for collaboration with a privileged role assigned to youth policy in it. The heads of states recognize: “the importance of youth, especially girls and young women, and those in fragile environments, to have access to the knowledge and skills that are necessary to enable them to be active citizens in their countries”[20]. Youth as a category is openly quoted in all the paragraphs connected to the “investing in people” priority and entered also in the peace and security agenda. The document acknowledges that young people are the most affected population in African conflicts and a commitment was launched to promote Youth, Peace and Security agenda (UN), increasing the role of young people and women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as in peacebuilding and peacekeeping.[21]

The Abidjan final document put a strong accent on youth, mentioning it in all the different thematic areas: jobs creation; participation in peace and security and in the process of good governance. The categorization of young people as a group-specific target of policies in the partnership have evolved throughout the years. In the first years of the partnership, the word youth appeared only rarely as a  category. It was mostly linked to education. The Brussels summit saw increased use of youth and young people as a category. The focus was extended on job creation and expression of full potential in entrepreneurship. The year 2017 and the Abidjan final declaration saw a recurrent use of the youth category, which constitutes a focus target group in many areas of collaboration such as sustainable development, investments, peace and security and good governance. This is something peculiar, in fact, there is not a specific section dedicated to youth as other traditional policies areas (e.g. security, energy, etc.) but the concept is used in a trasversal way. It occupies all the policies areas indicated by the partnership.

Nevertheless, the last continent-to-continent summit gave the impression to be fixated on current events, being very contingent and less strategic.[22] The high-level meeting was quite short and dominated by the discussion on current events related to migration, especially to the situation in Libya and the UN agreement on the evacuation of migrants from the country. Both the heads of states’ speeches and the final document focused mostly on migration issues, removing this way the fundamental strategic component that should be present in a high-level meeting that takes place only once every three or four years.

The Abidjan summit results are considered to be below the expectations so far, if not a step back in the continent-to-continent relations. The parties were not able to address clearly and frankly what they really wanted and to take steps for possible mediation. There were vast disagreement and lack of information on many crucial elements. For example, the Africans refused at the very last moment the civil society organizations to report to the summit. Moreover, they did not agree on the EU proposal about a road map, having not been previously reached out by the EU or by the African Union institutions.[23] This poses a question concerning the effectiveness of the African Union as the main partner for the EU to achieve concrete results in Africa. On this regard, it is important to keep in mind that Africa is not a country and that the continental organization incudes 54 countries which differ very much one from the other. There are countries with high economic growth while other are falling into humanitarian crisis. In this sense, despite the official rhetoric, is difficult for the EU to have a common approach towards Africa as a whole. With some countries the European Union is trying to move closer to a real partnership, while with others the relationship is limited to humanitarian aid.

Another relevant issue which influenced the Summit’s results is tribalism. The institutional framework of power in many African countries is very much different from the European counter parts, and issues related to tribalism influences the structure of power and society (role of young people and especially the condition of young women). Nevertheless, sddressing issues openly, being ready to mediation and secure effective communication will be fundamental steps to relaunch the continental partnership.

To summarize, it is recognizable a strong increase in the use of youth as a specific target group from 2007 to 2017. Mostly the increase in the discourse inside the partnership took place between 2014 and 2017 when the attention was focused on investments and job creation. The increased rhetoric on young people grew equally and exponentially in the same years as the refugee crisis, highlighting a clear link between the new rhetoric and migration issues. Another aspect to be pointed out is the rhetorical link between youth and education. This is based on the assumption that job creation can come only after having provided skills and education for young Africans. If it is for sure true that acquire skills and knowledge is a fundamental asset for a better future, nevertheless, it is very debatable that this would have the anticipated effects on migration. Several researches shows, in fact, that with high education comes a high tendency to mobility. In this sense, a key aspect to be linked to skills and education is the formation of a good environment for entrepreneurship.

(Source: Geopoll and the global Entrepreneurship network

(Source: Geopoll and the global Entrepreneurship network

Thematic focus – Investing in youth for a sustainable development

The youth was selected as the thematic focus of the 2017 Summit in Abidjan. The decision was driven by a series of motivations that are going to be discussed in this section. A first major issue in this regard was openly individuated by the Joint Communication of May 2017. The huge difference in the demographic trend is something to be taken into account and a phenomenon to be governed. Africa is experiencing a growth in the youth population, with 60% of people across the continent under 30 years of age. Meanwhile, the population in the European Union is decreasing and aging. [24] Population projections to 2050 show a continuation of this trend. It is forecasted that Africa’s population will double in the period between 2015-2050 reaching almost 2.5 billion, being largely composed of young people.[25]

Since now economic progress in Africa has not been inclusive or sustainable enough to offer better prospects for a large part of the population, especially young people. According to the last report published in 2016 by the African Development Bank, people aged between 15 and 35 constitue around 420 million, 19% of which are inactive, 31% are unemployed and discouraged, 35% are employed but in vulnerable situations and only 15% of the young population are wage employed. On average, young people suffered a double rate of unemployment when compared to adults. Furthermore, nowadays there are between 10 to 12 million young Africans entering the labor market each year while only 3.1 million jobs are being created. This is a tremendous imbalance that has severe consequences on the poor living condition, raise of conflicts and finally migration.[26] This, as a final outcome, was indicated by all the experts interviewed as a relevant issue in the decision for the thematic focus of the summit.[27]

These data should be complemented by the one concerning informal economy, meaning all economic activities that are not covered by formal arrangements. According to 2016 data from the International Labour Organization, the informal sector counted on average for 41% of gross domestic product and 72% of total employment in sub-saharan Africa. Despite the antagonism showed to the sector by some international organizations such as the World Bank, the EU should avoid the marginalization of the sector. It is something that exists, it is relevant and it matters for young people. [28]The partnership should take into consideration the informal sector and also look there for models of development which are not imposed from above. The sector should not be ignored but considered in his positive aspects and policies should possibly address the opportunities for securing better jobs and which could later led to the formalization of the sector.

Source: Spiegel online based on UN data, mid-range trajectory

Source: Spiegel online based on UN data, mid-range trajectory

Youth unemployment is not only an African issue but European as well. The economic crisis has severely hit the youth, which has seen the unemployment rate in the Union increasing from 15.1% in 2008 up to almost 24% in 2013 since then the trend has started to reverse reaching 15.6% in 2018.[29] However, it is important to know that for the statistical reason the EU considers only the group aged between 15 and 24 years old and that there are huge differences among member states, with the level of youth unemployment that exceeds 40% in Greece, while both Spain and Italy exceed 30%.[30]Youth represents a common issue on both continents and some of the experts pointed out that this was one of the reasons to choose it as a thematic focus. There is, in fact, an attempt to move in the direction of mutual accountability between the partners, meaning that what is going to be promoted in Africa should be similarly promoted in the European Union.[31]

As already stated, job creation is something strictly link to education. On this regard, another crucial issues concerning young people in Africa is teenage pregnancy. According to UNICEF data, sub-saharan Africa registered the highest world rates of early childebearing. Almost 30% of women aged between 20-24 have had a live birth before age 18.[32] Many African countries still adopt punitive laws against young pregnant girls forcing them to leave school. [33]The AU and the EU, in the context of the partnership, could address strongly the subject by advocating the adoption of national legislation to allow girls to come back at school and to implement effectively programs for re-entry and inclusion into society. The EU could contribute both as a sponsor and to control the implementation. On another side, the EU should do more to campaign for a correct sexual education and use of contraceptives, working to overcome the barrier of tribalism, that consider such topics as taboo and young girls pregnant outside the marriage as dinour to the family and  tribe. The payoff is high for policies focusing on education, because at the same time they can tackle multiple issues. They can reduce fertility and increase skills and economic productivity. It is something that could be addressed in a stronger way in the Africa-EU partnership and could generate a virtuous circle concerning better health conditions, lower fertility and women’s empowerment.

To summarize, the thematic focus on youth was a result of mediation between the EU aspirations, related to more expectations from Africa in general and with particular attention to migration, and African interests more linked to investments. [34] It was a more neutral middle earth and an indirect way to address sensitive issues, that opens up the possibility for dialogue, specifically concentrated on job creation. This attention on jobs and investments results to be the biggest shift at least in the formal dialogue. Driven by the necessity to regulate migration and the demographic explosion in the African countries, the European Union is putting interests at the core of the relationship with less focus on conditionality. As one of the experts pointed out, there is a need for job creation and this is something you can agree whatever in the presence of a democratic or non-democratic regime. [35]

As a follow-up meeting in May 2018, the 9th commission to commission meeting took place confirming the cooperation on peace and security and to consolidate the work of the task force on migration. The other key areas individuated confirmed the trend of having youth as a target group. The parties, in fact, committed to investing in people and economies, mainly continue “the active engagement with youth in the Africa-EU partnership in innovative and meaningful ways.”[36] Furthermore, the EU put at disposal an additional 400 million EUR towards continental and regional projects which include support to young people, [37] with a special focus given on employability, mobility and promotion of technological innovation.[38]

Involving youth in decision making

The partnership documents pointed out a partnership “for people” as well as the importance to involve non-institutional actors in the process of decision making. As we have already seen, it is for clear that young people entered the partnership as a theme and discourse in the official statements and documents, more predominantly since 2014. But what about their role as active protagonists. Are young people involved in the decision-making process? Do they have a voice in shaping policies which are supposed to target them?

Since Lisbon 2007, side events such as business, civil society and youth forums have been organized. The very first Africa-Europe youth summit was organized in 2007, facilitated by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe with the main purpose to increase youth knowledge about the AU and the EU and their policies related to young people in the two continents. [39] A step further was made in 2008 when the Council of Europe and the EU Commission identified common interests in the field of Euro-African youth cooperation and agreed on joint management to strengthen education and support Africa-Europe youth cooperation. Objectives of the joint management were: (1) Empowerment of Europe’s and Africa’s Youth; (2) strengthen young people's capacity to disseminate information and to get involved in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Joint Strategy; (3) facilitate moments of encounter and exchange between young Africans and Europeans; (4) and help mapping the existing African youth events. [40]

The 4th Africa-Europe Youth Summit took place between 9-11 of October 2017 in Abidjan. It was participated by a group of 120 members selected out of 7500 applicants among Africa and Europe youth organizations and representatives for the African diaspora. [41] The three days discussion resulted in a declaration which focused on six thematic areas: (1) Education and skills; (2) Business, job creation and entrepreneurship; (3) Governance and political inclusion; (4) Peace and security; (5) Climate change and (5) Culture and arts. [42] The youth representatives provided some recommendations such as adapting the age of eligibility to stand for election and the adoption of a European Youth Charter. On peace and security, they recalled the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on the need to strengthen the participation of youth in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. In doing this, the representatives acknowledged a missing link between recommendation and implementation by stating that “three Youth Summits presented recommendations to AU and EU governments and institutions (…) we recognize all that has been achieved but we regret the lack of implementation of many of these recommendations.”[43]

In the attempt to fill this gap, the Plug-in initiative was launched, wth the aim to involve actively 36 youth representatives in the preparations for the AU-EU summit. The plug-in initiative mandate was to build on the youth declaration and participate in the elaboration of messages, recommendations and deliverables to be endorsed by the heads of states and governments at the official summit. The youth representatives had the chance to meet stakeholders in Addis Ababa and to visit institutions in Brussels, participating in the African Working Party of the Council of the EU and meeting the High Representative Federica Mogherini. [44] The initiative resulted in the publication of the Youth Agenda of 92 pages developing concrete ideas and projects about the six thematic areas identified by the declaration.[45]

The main reason behind the initiative was the consideration that youth in Africa does not have a connection with political elites. The organization of such a platform was thought to help in filling this gap. Despite being the “youngest continent”, youth as a group is isolated and underrepresented, expect a few exceptions such as the case of Rwanda, in governance across the continent. If this is something in common with other countries and institutions all over the world, the case of Africa pops up for its huge imbalance. There is a: “fundamental disconnection between policymakers and youth that amplifies problems and causes African society, in general, to digress and feel dated.” [46] In this sense, the partnership should also focus on providing young people soft skills and opportunity to directly engage in the political arena. Nevertheless, this is a very sensitive topic to be addressed. Some African leaders consider this an imperialistic/neocolonial action intending to change old African traditional structures of power.

As a promising idea to involve young people in decision making and putting them in direct contact with a donor/investor such as the EU, the initiative has for sure rooms for improvement mainly on two aspects such as the selection of participants and the follow-up activities. Selection should be done as much as possible transparent, in order to win the support of the public. Follow up initiatives should be timely and clear. For example, the official documents remand to follow up projects from the youth to be evaluated but failed in establishing a clear platform or criteria. This could lead to the loss of support of the initiative from certain states even inside the EU. In this sense, the initiative has failed so far to multiplicate the visibility of the partnership, remaining a bit of an elitist process and more just an event in the first stage. In order to overcome the situation there is a current attempt to move one with a follow-up initiative which goes under the name of “AUxEU Youth Cooperation Hub” promoted by the African Union and the European Union and sponsored by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). It has a budget of 10 millions and the goal to sponsor one or two projects per area of action defined by the Youth agenda.[47]

Source Inter-parliamentary Union,

Source Inter-parliamentary Union,

These interesting steps further in the involvement of young people have had later a modest outcome at the official summit. The African authorities refused at the very last moment to admit civil society organizations to be present at the summit and to report, as previously agreed.[48] The youth was as well denied the possibility to directly report to the summit and only allowed to have a private and separate meeting with the High Representative Mogherini. The final declaration simply took notes of the pre-summit events organized by youth representatives and civil society organizations without including any of the recommendations made.[49] In this sense it is possible to say that there is a shared opinion about the importance of youth only as a category to address for specific policies, mostly concerning unemployment, investments in training and job creation.

For what concerns the political aspect of the inclusion of youth in the decision-making process, this remains something difficult to implement, as it clashes also with different cultural understanding of age. Many African countries assume that with age comes wisdom, therefore youth should wait its turn to get involved in decision making. In this regard, it is also possible to recognize differences between the AU and its member states. The first one adopted a more progressive approach by trying, for example, to implement quotas of people under the age of 35 to be hired, while participation in the electoral process as candidates on a national level remains a problem in many African countries.[50] To summarize, it is possible to note that the final link between the proposal of good ideas and the actual inclusion of them in the negotiation and implementation is still missing and remains at the stage of merely expressing political will to do it in the future, as a goal to reach. It would be important to move a step further, having the youth directly reporting to the summit and sitting together with those that formulate the declaration, so that something from their proposal could be included.


The role of young people in the Africa-EU partnership has for sure increased in the past decade. This is visible both from discourse and practical point of view. Youth as a specific target group has entered the rhetoric of the partnership growing in importance year after year. In the early years of the continent-to-continent relationship, the youth was rarely mentioned as a target group, while we can see a drastic increase in references to young people especially starting from 2014. The attention given in the last continental summit of 2017, which was dedicated to the empowerment of young people, was a culmination of the process.

It happened for a series of reasons which could be summarized in (1) the modification of the European approach towards Africa. There is a visible trend in the attempt to move forward from a donor-recipient model of development to one related to investments and “human empowering”. This led to the final objective to create new job opportunities on the African continent, which mostly means better jobs and opportunities for young people. Another related and undeniable reason is (2) migration. The refugee crisis and demographic trends in the African continent are elements of serious concern for the EU. Until now, the European attention has been focused on protection of the external border and repatriation of migrants. This very conservative approach has also led to strong disagreement with the African side, more interested in investments and in opening legal channels for regular migration. The youth was chosen as a neutral concept where to find a compromise between the parties. Reciprocity of actions and goals, meaning that actions should be implemented on both sides of the Mediterranean sea, is a target to be reached in order to build a more balanced partnership. In this sense, youth is indeed a common ground. Addressing issues such as job creation, employment and sustainability is a promising approach for a better continent-to-continent relationship.

In the short run, the change of topic and the focus on youth was not enough to relaunch concretely the continental partnership. The summit remained stuck on current issues, losing its fundamental strategic and planning intent. The parties were unable to address frankly what they really wanted and this should be a fundamental step to take to boost the continent-to-continent relationship. The Europeans came with a precise agenda and remained disappointed by the assertive African position. On the other hand, the African heads of states complained about an agenda mostly designed by the EU without previous negotiations with the African Union member states. Better communication between the involved parties is another step to be achieved. In this sense, it is important to consider the imbalance between the two continental organizations. If the EU has its own agenda and can negotiate to a certain extent in foreign policy, this is not the case for the African Union, which mostly remains an intergovernmental organization.

Finally, coming to the involvement of young people in the partnership there are lights and shadows to be highlighted. There seems to be a rising trend in the international community in addressing the issue of youth more and more. This is also the results of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on “Youth, peace and security”. A similar initiative was taken by the UN following the resolution on gender: “Women, peace and security”. The UN considers the involvement of women and youth as involvement in decision making. In this sense, it calls for all those actions that can help to realize this. When looking at the Africa-EU partnership, we can see that there were some interesting activities before the Summit of 2017, outcome of which was unfortunately modest. Representatives of the youth were not allowed to report to the summit and none of their proposals were included in the final document. These should be two crucial points to be achieved in order to make the involvement of youth really effective. Moreover, other aspects that should be implemented are the selection of participants in the initiatives and a clearer guideline for the follow-up. In that way, it would be possible to have better transparency and multiply the visibility and effectiveness of the partnership. The EU should stay courageous not giving up on political conditionality. They are an important tool for democratization and for achieving the involvement of the civil society and youth in the decision making process in the African countries.


[1] Joint Africa-Eu strategy, A joint Africa-EU strategy – key development issues, 14.

[2] Ibid, 3.

[3] Ibid, 23.

[4] 3rd Africa-EU summit, Tripoli Declaration, 1.

[5] Joint Africa-EU strategy, Action plan 2011-2013, 6.

[6] “EU-Africa cooperation through Erasmus +”, European Commission, accessed July 13, 2018.

[7] “Erasmus + for Africa, and the EU-Africa strategy”, European Commission. July 27, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2018.

[8] 4th Africa-EU summit, Declaration, 2.

[9] Ibid., 8.

[10] 4th Africa-EU summit, roadmap 2014-2017, 5.

[11] Ibid., 7.

[12] Joint communication, For a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU partnership, 2.

[13] Ibid., 9.

[14] African Union, Agenda 2063 – The Africa we want. 2015

[15] Joint communication, For a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU partnership, 9.

[16] Valletta summit, 11-12 November 2015, Political declaration and Action plan, November, 2015.

[17] Joint communication, For a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU partnership, 9.

[18] AU-EU Summit 2017, Declaration, 1.

[19] Joint communication, For a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU partnership, 4.

[20] Ibid., 6.

[21] Ibid., 8-9.

[22] Expert interview.

[23] Expert interview.

[24] Joint communication, For a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU partnership.

[25] The EU and the AU, a statistical portrait, 10.

[26] African Development bank group, Jobs for youth in Africa – catalyzing youth opportunity across Africa, March 2016.

[27] Expert Interviews.


[29] “statistics explained – youth unemployment”, Eurostat, May 2018,

[30] “Youth Unemployment rates in Europe as of March 2018”, Statista,

[31] Expert interview.



[34] Expert interview.

[35] Expert Interview.

[36] “EU and African Union commission steps up their cooperation to support young people”, European Commission, jobs and peace, May 23, 2018.

[37] Ibid.

[38] “European Commission and AU commission step up their cooperation to support young people, jobs and peace”, European Commission, May 23, 2017.

[39] “Africa-EU youth co-operation”, The Council of Europe.

[40] Ibid.

[41] “4th Africa-Europe Youth summit declaration”, European Commission, October 13, 2017.

[42] 4th Africa-Europe Youth summit, The Abidjan declaration, October 9-11, 2017.

[43] Ibid., 1.

[44] African Union – European Union, Youth plug-in initiative

[45] 4th Africa-Europe Youth summit and AU-EU plug in initiative, Youth Agenda. November 29, 2017.

[46] Thione Niang, “Raising the voice of young people in governance”, Brookings, March 2019,

[47] AUxEU Youth Cooperation Hub,

[48] Nikolaj Nielsen, “EU-Africa summit on youth met with skepticism”, euobserver, Brussels, November 30, 2017.

[49] AU-EU Summit 2017, Declaration, 2.

[50] Expert Interview.