Moving beyond the arguably false dichotomy between ‘North Africa’ and ‘Sub-Saharan’ Africa will require a transformative reconfiguration of Africa-EU relations, but I see this as a positive and progressive one (I’m not sure that the EU will, but perhaps the EU Commissioners in DG Trade can comment on that point!). Any future FTA with the EU must, I believe, ensure that African nations are properly integrated into the global economy and not just into the EU’s economy.
Cotonou came to disrupt that acquis in at least three ways. First, it abandoned the core principle of unilateral preferences in favour of reciprocity. Second, and more damaging, it jettisoned the issue of trade from its agenda, leaving it instead to economic partnership agreements (EPAs) that were to be negotiated at sub-regional rather than ACP level. The effect of this Cotonou decision in terms of the trade agenda was to effectively demolish the 79-country bloc and replace it with a patchwork of supposedly six sub-regional groupings. Thirdly, and finally, when all but one of the sub-regional groupings on the ACP side were unable to negotiate as cohesive units and reach EPAs at sub-regional level, the EU ended up signing interim EPAs with individual countries, thereby – in the case of Africa in particular – throwing a grenade onto the fledgling regional integration processes underway at the time.