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Cover International Relations and the European Union

12. The Shadows of Empire: African Perceptions of Europe and the EU  

Adekeye Adebajo

This chapter considers the shaping of relations between Africa and Europe. It looks at how they continue to be adversely affected, by the historical trauma of five centuries of slavery and colonialism. The shadows of empire continue to cast over these bonds, as exemplified in the European Union’s (EU’s) heavy-handed and mercantilist negotiating approach during the conclusion of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African states between 2002 and 2016. Tensions could also be seen on issues relating to the poor treatment of African migrants by European governments, and a lack of African access to Covid-19 drugs. Some African leaders—particularly in the francophone world—embraced aspects of European colonial rule, as useful to their post-colonial development, but most leaders and citizens in Africa continue to note the destructive legacy and continued dominance of inherited European institutions and the unfair global structures of trade. Despite European talk of ‘equal partnership’ and its provision of development aid, non-reciprocal trade access (since revoked), and security assistance; the African side still often feels that an unequal, paternalistic relationship has continued with Europe, similar to the exploitative patterns of the past.