The Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Written evidence (ZAF0003)


House of Lords International Relations Committee (IRC) Inquiry



How the UK can best support the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the areas for co-operation set out in the 2019 AU-UK Joint Communiqué.

Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on behalf of HM Government.






This memorandum sets out the Government’s support for the African Union’s (AU’s) ‘Agenda 2063’ and cooperation under the AU-UK Memorandum of Understanding signed in Addis Ababa on 21 February 2019

Key points:

-          The AU is an increasingly strong and influential partner in Africa, but faces capacity and political constraints.

-          ‘Agenda 2063’ sets out the framework and objectives for the AU’s work.

-          The UK and AU have shared objectives in Africa, and the UK’s new strategic approach to Africa and ‘Agenda 2063’ are closely aligned.

-          The UK is committed to supporting the AU.  The new UK/AU strategic partnership focusses on increasing cooperation in five key areas: strengthening resilience; mobilising investments for African sustainable transformation; migration and human mobility; promoting multilateralism and the rules-based international system; investing in people.  





Foreign and Commonwealth Office

30 September 2019

House of Lords International Relations Committee (IRC) Inquiry



How the UK can best support the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the areas for co-operation set out in the 2019 AU-UK Joint Communiqué.

Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on behalf of HM Government.




This memorandum sets out the Government’s support for the African Union’s ‘Agenda 2063’ and cooperation under the AU-UK Memorandum of Understanding signed in Addis Ababa on 21 February 2019.  It is submitted as evidence to the House of Lords International Relations Committee Inquiry examining how Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) is fulfilling the commitment, made in February 2019, to support the African Union to achieve an ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’.    




  1. Headquartered in Addis Ababa and launched in 2002, the African Union (AU) has 55 members covering the whole of Africa (including the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which neither the UK nor the UN recognises as a state) and is the largest regional bloc in the United Nations.  Of the ten non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council, three are reserved for African states – the A3. Nineteen AU members are also members of the Commonwealth.   


  1. The AU faces resource and capacity constraints – with a core staff of 1,500, the AU Commission has around 5% of that of the European Commission to work on behalf of a continent of more than twice the population.  The AU’s 2016 budget was £315m (60% provided by international partners) compared to the EU’s budget of £128bn.  Despite this, the AU’s ambitions are high and it has embarked on an internal reform agenda to improve its effectiveness and financial sustainability. 


  1. Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ (1) is the continent’s strategic framework to deliver on its goal of inclusive and sustainable development.  Launched in 2013 by African heads of state and government, it is an ambitious vision and action plan intended to drive Africa's development and transformation for the next 50 years: “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.


  1. The Agenda lists seven ‘aspirations’ each with a number of goals covering growth and sustainable development; continental integration; good governance, democracy and human rights; peace and security; cultural identity; people’s development, especially youth and women; and Africa as a strong and influential global player and partner.




  1. The African Union (AU) is increasingly seen as a strong and influential player and partner by the international community.  Its 54 UN votes and three non-permanent seats (the ‘A3’) in the UN Security Council potentially give it pivotal influence in multilateral fora.  It has proven better equipped and more willing to intervene than the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) which preceded it, with a founding statute which prioritises non-indifference over non-interference.  For example it suspended Egypt and, more recently, Sudan for ‘unconstitutional changes of government’.  It has recently helped to broker political agreements in the Central African Republic and in Sudan.  The AU is increasingly building consensus among African countries on issues such as peace and security, elections, and regional integration (including an African Continental Free Trade Area), whilst pursuing a programme of internal institutional reform.


  1. The AU is an important partner for the UK, especially on peace and security in Africa – leading on the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which is the largest peacekeeping mission in the world, partnering on the UN-AU hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID), leading mediation efforts in Sudan and supporting security in the Sahel.  While peace and security remains the bedrock of our relationship, we also engage the AU on, amongst other things, trade, migration, climate change, demography and serious and organised crime.


  1. Partnering with African countries is at the heart of the Government’s approach to Africa.  Activity to support the AU and Agenda 2063 is woven throughout our approach. As the pre-eminent multilateral organisation on the continent, and a champion of the rules based international system, the AU will also be an important partner for the UK.  The new UK-AU strategic partnership provides a framework of planned activity and a forum for formal high-level dialogue to support closer working, and is buttressed by regular bilateral and multilateral engagement with the AU.





  1. The former Prime Minister, Theresa May, set out HMG’s strategic approach to Sub-Saharan Africa in her Cape Town speech in August 2018.  Closer working with the AU is a key element of the approach and subsequently Prime Minister May wrote to the AU Commission Chairperson expressing her desire for a strategic partnership with the AU. 


  1. In February 2019 Harriett Baldwin, the then-Minister for Africa, and the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (Annex 1) establishing a new UK/AU Strategic Partnership.  The MOU and associated Joint Communiqué (Annex 2) envisage a partnership of deeper and broader engagement for mutual benefit.  At the core is increased political engagement, including an annual high-level dialogue.  We have offered to host the first of these in London. 


  1. In May 2019, a UK/AU working group agreed the strategic framework which will underpin the partnership and high-level dialogue, although the modalities and implementation plans are still being agreed in many areas.  The framework reflects the UK’s desire to support the work of the AU through concrete action, and underlines how AU and HMG objectives are mutually supportive.  As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major development partner, the UK has always been seen by the AU as an important partner. 


  1. The UK-AU strategic framework is based around five ‘pillars’ of cooperation, with the AU and UK committing to work together in each area to move towards agreed objectives:


1.          Strengthening Resilience

2.          Mobilising Investments for African Sustainable Transformation

3.          Migration and Human Mobility

4.          Promoting Multilateralism and the Rules-Based International System

5.          Investing in People


  1. There is significant overlap between the framework’s ‘pillars’ and the UK’s overall approach to Africa.  The overall approach also focusses on five areas – prosperity; security and stability; climate change and sustainable natural resource management; demographic transition; and the Sahel.  The objectives of the AU’s ‘Agenda 2063’ are therefore reflected in HMG’s strategic approach.


  1. The UK plans to invest up to £30m over three years from 2018 in AU-related projects across Africa in support of these pillars. In Financial Year 2018-19, we contributed £7m to support AU peace support efforts, including early warning capabilities, and £1.5m on AU electoral observation, trade and migration activities.  In addition, the UK provides £28m core funding annually through the UN (assessed contributions for UNSOS, which supports AMISOM) and in 2019 around €30m to AMISOM through the EU’s Africa Peace Facility plus an additional £7m in 2019 (announced in 2018).


  1. Direct financial support is only part of the picture. Through the political and diplomatic engagement envisaged under the partnership, we hope to achieve the most meaningful progress towards greater cooperation and alignment of wider UK policy and development activity in Africa with AU objectives.





  1. Many of the challenges to stability and prosperity in Sub-Saharan Africa do not respect borders, making the AU’s regional approach important. Conflict and humanitarian crises in Africa affect multiple countries, for example through flows of refugees and immigrants across borders, or terrorist and organised crime networks that cause, and benefit from, instability.


  1. Current UK co-operation supports AU peace-keeping efforts in Somalia, as well as the AU Commission’s important work in promoting good governance and electoral observation.  This includes our support to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, which delivers pre-assessment missions and technical support and training for the AU’s Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit.  We intend to further broaden co-operation through continued UK programmatic support and enhanced policy engagement.  We will also work closely with the AU on key geographical priorities as they emerge, including ongoing peace and security issues in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and Libya, including the possible security implications of climate change as a threat multiplier.  We are sharing learning, best practise and expertise on issues relating to global health security, including direct support to the AU’s ‘African Centre for Disease Control’ through the secondment of a UK Public Health specialist from Public Health England.





  1. The UK and AU share an ambition for the continent that sees continued strong, clean economic growth: low-carbon and resilient development, creating new jobs and harnessing entrepreneurial spirit.


  1. A key feature of the AU’s approach to mobilising investment and driving economic growth on the continent is the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  This was formally launched in July 2019 and has so far been signed by 54 of the AU’s 55 members.  There are many practical challenges, but a common African market would have a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion and the UN forecasts an additional 15-25% increase in intra-African trade by 2040 if the AfCFTA is implemented.  The UK is supporting this through the secondment of a trade expert to the AU’s AfCFTA Unit, the provision of research support for the Unit, and a planned capacity-building event for national and regional trade negotiators involved in AfCFTA negotiations. 


  1. Sub-Saharan Africa already has the world’s youngest and fastest growing population.  62% of people in the region are under 25 and the population is projected to double to 2.1 billion by 2050.  The IMF estimates that the region’s working age population will increase by an average of 20 million each year over the next two decades. This presents opportunities – ‘the demographic dividend’ – as well as risks.  The UK and AU are therefore working together to increase focus and investment in the drivers of an inclusive demographic transition that could enable a dividend of prosperity and growth.  In support of this, the UK is engaging with the African Union to consider how we can work together to support the realisation of the African Union Roadmap for Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.  We will also share analysis on demographic trends and best practise to help support African partners achieve a successful demographic transition.




  1. As co-signatories to the Global Compact on Migration, the UK and the AU share a number of priorities in relation to migration and mobility.  These include efforts to tackle human trafficking and migrant smuggling, protecting the most vulnerable migrants.  We also both recognise the value that well-managed migration and human mobility can bring to Africa, both to migrants themselves and to host/ origin countries through remittances and improved skills.


  1. We are therefore continuing our support to the AU to maximise the benefits of regular migration, such as ethical recruitment, lowering the cost of remittance transfers, improved use of data and evidence in policy making, and encouraging mutual recognition of qualifications.  We have seconded a technical adviser to the AU migration policy team who supports delivery of the Migration Policy Framework for Africa, promoting better migration governance across the continent to facilitate safe, orderly and dignified migration.  The AU and UK will do more to tackle the upstream drivers of irregular migration, including through the work detailed elsewhere in this memorandum to strengthen resilience and promote economic growth.  We are exploring with the AU how we will work together to support other areas of sustainable migration and to take action to protect the most vulnerable, including on Modern Slavery.




  1. The UK supports the AU’s desire to find African solutions for African problems within the context of the Rules Based International System (RBIS).  To that end the UK supports in principle the AU’s efforts to secure UN assessed funds for AU-led peacekeeping and enforcement operations on the African continent, provided this is in line with the conditions set out in UN Security Council Resolution 2320.  The UK is helping the AU to meet those conditions, through support to the development and drafting of AU doctrines and policies on protection of civilians, conduct and discipline, sexual exploitation and abuse, ensuring that they are compliant with international humanitarian law. 


  1. In multilateral fora, we have a regular, open dialogue with the AU on UN Security Council business and seek to engage the African non-permanent members of the Security Council in a spirit of collaboration and partnership.  We are also exploring the possibilities for greater co-operation with the AU for example through better understanding of each other’s positions in organisations such as the Commonwealth, WTO, ICC, UNECA, the World Bank and IMF.


  1. We will also share information and co-ordinate expertise in the fight against trans-national organised crime, the defence of human rights and in efforts to meet climate change goals through the Paris Agreement and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  We have committed to work on enhancing the impact of the Green Climate Fund in vulnerable African countries.




  1. We are exploring with the AU the opportunities for cultural, linguistic, educational, technological and scientific exchanges of information, expertise and best practice, recognising the importance of creating the conditions to allow full participation of women and people with disabilities in our societies.  For example, we would like to see additional African countries ratifying the AU protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa following the commitment of the Governments of Rwanda and Kenya to do so at the UK-hosted Global Disability Summit in July 2018.


  1. We are also supporting African countries to increase the employment opportunities available for young people.  For example, former Prime Minister May co-hosted an event on this issue during the UN General Assembly in 2018. 




  1. To support delivery of HMG’s strategic approach we are expanding our diplomatic presence on the African Continent.  The cross-HMG AU Team at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa has been one of the earliest to be strengthened, reflecting the importance of the AU as a partner for the UK, with a 35% increase to approximately 15 staff by the end of this financial year.  This has boosted our political and military engagement, added capacity for health engagement and (regionally) on gender issues, and allowed us to raise the diplomatic level of our Deputy Permanent Representative to ambassadorial equivalent.


  1. In addition to expanding the AU team in our Embassy in Addis Ababa, additional funding from HMG’s strategic approach to Sub-Saharan Africa is supporting 8 participating HMG departments (BEIS, DFID, DIT, DHSC, FCO, Home Office, HMRC and MoD) to fund around 400 new positions (front line and support staff) in 49 locations.  Of these, roughly 75% will be in the Africa network, 20% in the UK and 5% in the wider global network such as Ankara, Cairo, Beijing, Paris, and Riyadh.  We are opening five new missions, which will ensure a UK presence in all Commonwealth countries in Africa. New High Commissions in Eswatini and Lesotho have recently opened, and will be followed by embassies in Niger, Chad and Djibouti. 





  1. HMG also supports the AU’s objectives through our existing development partnerships with countries across Africa.  This support is delivering results across the Continent in key priorities for ‘Agenda 2063’.  For example our support to promote better cross-border trade, access to electricity and agricultural productivity will help address barriers to more rapid and inclusive economic growth in Africa. We will help 3.2 million people get access to electricity in their homes for the first time by 2021. Our support to agriculture will improve incomes for 5 million people and encourage £300 million of new private investment in the sector by 2021. To date, our work in reducing trade barriers in East Africa has assisted in reducing freight costs from Uganda to Kenya by 35%.


  1. Support from the Department for International development (DFID) also helps tackle conflict and humanitarian crises and helps people cope with climate change, including in countries where the UK does not have a Post (e.g. Central African Republic) by providing humanitarian aid; working with the World Bank and African countries to provide direct support to those affected by extreme weather events; and working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on conflict, stability and migration in the region.



  1. The AU has at least seven strategic partnerships with states other than the UK (including China, the US, France and India) and three with regions and regional organisations (the Arab World, EU and South America). It also has partnerships with the Commonwealth and la Francophonie.  Potential future partnerships include Russia, Iran, the Caribbean and Australasia.


  1. Of these, the partnerships with China (FOCAC) and the EU provide the highest levels of financial support. Germany is also a major donor and both China and Germany have underpinned their relations with the AU by gifting the construction of new buildings for the AU Commission in Addis Ababa.  A regular high-level dialogue with Japan – the Tokyo International Forum on African Development – is held roughly every five years (the last in August 2019 in Yokohama).  In 2018 in Johannesburg President Putin announced that the first ever Russia-Africa Summit would be held in Sochi in October 2019.


  1. Political engagement is also an important part of how others engage the AU: for example President Macron travelled to Mauritania in 2018 and to Addis Ababa in 2019 to meet with AU Chairperson Faki as well as inviting him to events during France’s G7 presidency.     




  1. We welcome the AU’s aspirations and ambition.  The AU is increasingly seen internationally as a strong and influential player and partner, able to bring African countries together to tackle shared challenges, to promote a rules based system within Africa and to mediate to resolve conflict. 


  1. HMG is committed to supporting the AU, both, through our structured strategic partnership with the AU and more broadly in the context of HMG’s strategic approach to Sub-Saharan Africa.  We are realistic about timelines and substance, but optimistic about what the partnership can achieve for Africa.  




1.      AU’s ‘Agenda 2063’:

2.      Joint Communiqué:

3.      Press release:




1.      Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership:


Received 30 September 2019