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7 March 2013

EU/Africa: Ten years of the Africa Peace Facility

The European Union (EU) is evaluating the first ten years of the Africa Peace Facility (APF).  The APF was established following the African Union (AU) Summit in Maputo in 2003 as a means to finance (i) the development of African peace support capacity; and (ii) African-led peace support operations (PSO).  It was originally funded from left over European Development Fund (EDF) resources – although it has from time to time been topped-up bilaterally by EU member states.  The EDF origins of the APF have led to a rhetoric about shared ownership of the resources.  Since it began, the APF has disbursed slightly in excess of one billion Euros – about 85% of which has gone on the financing the cost of various African PSO with the remainder spent on capacity building at AU and sub-regional level.

There appear to be differences of view within Europe about the purpose of the APF.  This is perhaps characterised by some who contrast a one billion Euro investment with the total inability of ECOWAS to deliver a force to Mali – despite funds specifically allocated to this.  But there are deeper tensions within Europe.  Support for the APF as currently constituted is not rock solid.  Africa (and some in the European Commission) would like to dispense with the capacity building element of the APF – largely because the PSO demand is vast and apparently bottomless; and partly because there are in fact other EU funds which could be used.  But altering the balance between conflict management (PSO) and conflict prevention (capacity building) within the APF would almost certainly destroy it as some EU member states think that the purpose of the APF is actually capacity building.


After ten years of the APF, a great deal of positive change is evident.  The EU (at least at official level) is less patronising in its approach to the African partners and more willing to understand that the development process will be evolutionary and long. And the various African institutions rub along better than they used to.  But the question of subsidiarity is still not yet resolved in Africa.  This is leading to inefficiency and waste – both in terms of using donor funds and in terms of who does what in Africa.


The EU are clear that the APF is a funding instrument.  This (narrow and technocratic) position is what enables them to be patient in terms of actual improved African capability.  But it is quite clear that others in Europe are much clearer that they want some return for what is anyone’s book a large investment.  There is a relative lack of any strategic link between the activities (and goals) of the APF on the one hand; and Europe’s wider political-security interests and concerns on the other.  It is perhaps naive to assume that Europe will continue to pay out at this rate without some quid pro quo – a point which many Africans assume yet European seems to ignore.

Mission creep

The one area where European political-security interests seem to have had an impact is in the (always loose) definition of what the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) actually is.  In 2003/4, APSA was largely about building institutions and capabilities: the Peace and Security Council; the Africa Standby Force; the Continental Early Warning System; the Panel of the Wise.  Now the EU’s definition still includes these institutions but adds a number of specific effects or policy goals such as counter-piracy and maritime security.   Africa does not seem to actually share the EU’s political-security goals in their entirety.  The continent is still very much in a phase characterised by the management of operations and the development of institutional capacity.  There is a gentle divergence between African and European ambition developing.  This will likely lead to an increasingly a la carte approach to developing the APSA which is unlikely to be particularly helpful going forward.

C + C = C

Getting the best – for Europe and Africa – from a future incarnation of the APF will require more than just bureaucracy.  The officials of the various inter-governmental organisations have a key role to play.  They need to work to improve their cultural awareness of their partners within the APF; and to work to improve formal and informal communication between them.  These two Cs will lead to improved confidence leading in turn to better outcomes. The formula for future APF success ought to be: Culture + Communications = Confidence.

4 March 2013

Kenya: Where has all the traffic gone? Long time passing..

The Kenya Airways flight banked over Nairobi giving the usual glimpse of the north and western suburbs, Wilson Airport and the Nairobi National Park. With barely a cloud in the sky, the full extent of the major roadworks around Kenya's capital was clear. But something was missing. There seemed to be almost no traffic moving around the city on this, Kenya's most important election day in many years. As the flight settled into its final approach, the normally log jammed Mombassa Road seemed equally deserted.

For the regular visitor to Nairobi, the lack of traffic is almost spooky. The city's traffic is very much like Kenya itself. It ebbs and flows, forming up behind obstacles and eventually overcoming them. It is brash and confident; and endlessly diverse. The mundane experience of sitting on a European motorway with its range of greys and people cocooned in their vehicles is far from the exuberant - but highly frustrating - business of navigating Nairobi's traffic. All manner of things are offered for sale - maps; ground nuts; curious devices for drying small items of laundry; fruit; DVDs; etc. All of Nairobi life is here and on display. Commuters in the Matatus; families combining going to work with the school run; people doing their make up in the passenger (and sometimes driver's) seat of the car to the sound track of revving engines, over amplified sound systems and beeps and hoots.

But not today.

The taxi driver drew up at the security post on the hotel perimeter. The usual smiling request to search the vehicle was replaced by a huge grin and a raised little finger on the guard's left hand. In the gleeful exchange which followed, the taxi driver - exhibiting his own left little finger to demonstrate that he too had voted today - declared us all "men of God". Although it was far from clear how, both men had recognised in each other a shared political ambition.

A group of Americans at the hotel seemed oblivious to the momentous events taking place in Kenya. They had, they said, had an amazing holiday into which they had packed more experiences of a life time than an ordinary mortal was entitled to expect. But the election had cast a shadow over their final day. Their drivers had wanted to vote.

The luxury of near deserted streets is unsettling. Hopefully tomorrow, Nairobi will be back to normal - and people will be wistfully reflecting on how easy it was to get around on 4 March. But if traffic, potholes and resentful tourists are the worst that Kenya has to contend with in the days following the election, the country will count itself lucky. Kenyans do not want - or need - more violence. Let's just hope that the political elite can remember that in the days and weeks to come.