Towards a Reset of Minds About Africa & Europe
During discussions in the independent and tripartite High-Level Group (HLG) on an African-European Partnership, it became often apparent that there are cognitive gaps which hinder people from having a meaningful exchange, one which goes deeper than statistics and figures. One which is able to touch the hearts and minds of people here and there. Erroneous perceptions linger on which lead to distorted views about the past in both continents and to destructive attitudes towards the future.
While knowledge in Africa about Europe is now mostly dated, the main problem results from one sided historical narratives about the period when European countries invaded African ones and subjugated them to their interests. This is comparable to what this other colonial power, Russia, has done in its neighbourhood, and is attempting again today in Ukraine Europeans did in Africa: erasing African countries’ history, denigrating cultural identities, grabbing its resources. Europe’s rich civilisation has a dark side which they like to ignore. Recipients do not.
Unlike the Franco-German reconciliation process in Europe launched after the second world war, no similar attempt was made to reset hearts and minds with African countries after their independence was restored, after long and painful struggles in most cases. The colonial misdeeds are therefore difficult to put behind. This is particularly difficult when current European policies continue to hinder Africa’s autonomous path to future wellbeing for its peoples.
The members of the HLG thought that an effort should be made to correct the many continuing misconceptions in order to contribute to the development of a basis for a fair and equitable partnership.
Two forward thinking foundations supported the preparatory research work: the Sawiris Foundation from Egypt, the country which like no other infused ancient Greece and from there Europe’s own early civilisational development; and the King Baudouin Foundation from Belgium, which has taken to heart a new relational approach.
The project resulted in a double outcome: this short brochure, easy to read on the long-haul flights between the two continents, and hopefully eliminating some misconceptions on arrival, facilitating thus mutual respect and understanding, and negotiations; and a book, deepening and widening the analysis of this brochure, published by Palgrave Springer under the title ‘Reimagining Africa: lifting the veil of ignorance’.
Our sincere gratitude goes to the two foundations for their support and to African and European intellectuals helping our effort. All opinions and all shortcomings remain as usual the responsibility of the authors.
Brussels, June 2023
Adeyinka Adewale, PhD, Associate Professor, Henley Business School, Reading (UK);
John Maré, PhD, contributor Business Day (SA), former deputy ambassador of South-Africa in Brussels;
Stefan Schepers, PhD, visiting professor Henley Business School; director African-European Centre Investment & Trade, Johannesburg (SA).