EU and African leaders are expected to meet for a two-day summit on Thursday, seeking to reboot ties with pledges of major investment.
Relations between the two continents have been hampered by a raft of problems: from disputes over coronavirus vaccines, to curbing illegal migration, a wave of coups in Africa, and the growing influence of Russian mercenaries on the continent.
“Our common ambition, Africans and Europeans, for this summit, is to achieve a renewed, modernized and more action-oriented partnership,” said Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who currently chairs the African Union.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, whose country holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, hopes the first joint summit since 2017 can burnish his grand ambition of forging an “economic and financial New Deal with Africa.”
The EU is aiming to convince the 40 African leaders in Brussels that Europe is their “most reliable partner” by fleshing out an investment initiative that aims to mobilize 150 billion euros ($170 billion) of public and private funds over the next seven years.
The scheme is the first regional part of the EU’s Global Gateway – a $300 billion euro worldwide investment blueprint.
The EU is eying a dozen ambitious projects to bolster internet access, transport links and renewable energy.
But details on funding remain vague, and the projects are still to be agreed on with the African side.
African leaders are instead pushing for a far more concrete step of getting EU nations to allow the International Monetary Fund to allocate tens of billions of dollars in further aid.
The summit – which will involve a series of roundtable discussions – comes at a worrying time for Africa after a wave of military coups and as regional powerhouse Ethiopia is wracked by conflict.
Burkina Faso in January joined Guinea, Mali and Sudan as the fourth country frozen out by the AU after disgruntled soldiers toppled the elected president.
It is also unsettled by the rising influence of Russian mercenaries in some of Africa’s most volatile hot spots.
An EU official said that in a bid to bolster broader stability, the EU planned to increase funding for African Union peacekeeping missions across the continent.