Africa’s peace and security situation has long been important to the continent’s more traditional European partners, but has increasingly become of interest to China.
Despite stark differences on African security issues, means of intervention and cooperation frameworks, both Europe and China are in agreement on the point that peace and security are preconditions for the continent’s development.
Due to the proximity of both continents, Europe cannot afford to be indifferent to Africa’s security issues. These issues have resulted in displaced people, refugees and violent extremism – all of which are ongoing concerns for Europe.
The EU has favoured ‘holistic approaches to security’ in Africa with a focus on conflict prevention, long-term peace-building, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. The emphasis has been on root causes of conflict, governance and sustainable development.
China’s interests in Africa’s peace and security issues, on the other hand, are primarily driven by the rapid expansion of her economic interests on the continent.
China’s approach to security in Africa is defined by the position that African countries are themselves responsible for maintaining stability, while its multilateral approach to conflict resolution is based on a rejection of arbitrary interventions in internal affairs. Recently though, there has been a gradual but noticeable moderation of this non-interference policy. However, China’s position remains limited to non-traditional security challenges and humanitarian crises.
The African Union (AU), under the ‘African solutions to Africa’s problems’ mantra, has made great strides in its attempts to resolve the continent’s peace and security challenges. Since 2002, the AU has developed and implemented several initiatives and mechanisms – notably the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA).
APSA – comprised of the Peace and Security Council, the Panel of the Wise, the AU Peace Fund, the Continental Early Warning System and the African Standby Force – has conflict detection and management as its primary responsibility.
AGA, on the other hand, addresses governance deficits that have been identified as the underlying and structural causes of most conflicts in Africa. AGA has made significant inroads, with a particular focus on ensuring synergy, coherence and coordination, and entrenching and deepening a culture of democratic governance.
Clearly, attaining peace and security is a common goal of the EU, China and the AU. Therefore, despite the differences in their approaches, the EU and China must continue to pave avenues for co-operation with African interests at the core.
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