The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the new EU-Africa strategy proposal – we need more!

The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the new EU-Africa strategy proposal – we need more!

On the 9th March 2020, the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published the proposal for a new EU strategy with Africa. The European Disability Forum (EDF) welcomes the document as it brings a formidable opportunity to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities in Africa, with the prospect to supporting youth with disabilities in decent jobs and women with disabilities to be key drivers of sustainable and inclusive changes. However, to really implement and monitor the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to deliver Agenda 2063, persons with disabilities (including women, older people, youth and children) need to be more explicitly included, with clear initiatives. The United Nations estimates that over a billion people live with some form of disability. They are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest and at greater risk of suffering from violence, disaster, catastrophic health expenses, and discrimination.

Background information

Together, the European Union (EU) and its Member States are the biggest donor to the African continent. Approximately 20 billion of Euros a year in development aid is directed to Africa through programmes implemented at a continental, regional and national level. Around 20% of this is managed by the European Commission . Under the leadership of the new President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Layen, the EU is making a new priority of Africa. The President of the Commission has called Europe to have a comprehensive strategy on Africa. This strategy will encompass existing mechanisms as well as new instruments, such as a new EU-Africa strategic partnership, the 2017 External Investment Plan and the upcoming Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).

The European Disability Forum, together with the African Disability Forum, advocate for the full implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities at the regional level, both in the EU and in Africa, and therefore the EU-Africa strategy can serve as an opportunity to work on this collectively.

The proposal for the new EU-Africa strategic partnership

The proposal shows a strong discourse on respect and collaboration, based on dialogue, mutual respect and shared responsibilities. Five key areas are suggested for strong cooperation:

  • green transition;
  • digital transformation;
  • sustainable growth and jobs;
  • peace and governance;
  • and migration and mobility.

The five areas for partnerships are in line with this new century’s priorities. However, it fails to properly address poverty and reach out to the groups the most at risks of discrimination and exclusion. For instance, persons with disabilities are just mentioned twice in the proposal.

  • On page 12, in the section called “Partners for peace, security, governance and resilience”, persons with disabilities appeared in the following footnote “Including on grounds or sex, race, ethnic or social origin, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, disability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity”. The footnote is linked to the following sentence: “Security and development can only be sustainable in the long term when rooted in full respect of human rights without discrimination on any ground, democratic principles, gender equality and the rule of law.”
  • On page 14, in the section called “Partners on migration and mobility”, persons with disabilities are mentioned in the following sentence “Across all activities, the EU will continue to pay particular attention to respecting its core values and in particular to taking into account the particular needs of persons in vulnerable situations, including women, children, unaccompanied minors and persons with disabilities”.

We believe the proposal is a good step in the right direction but we need more concrete initiatives to really leave no African with disabilities behind. In particular, we would like to suggest:

  • A tangible effort to mainstream rights of persons with disabilities in Africa across the five key areas of the final strategy, but also across all the different financial instruments mobilized (such as the NDICI, including the European Fund for Sustainable Development+ which follows the external investment plan)
  • A real partnership with civil society organisations during the negotiation process of the Strategy, including organisations of persons with disabilities such as EDF and the African Disability Forum.

These recommendations complement key points EDF already raised on the need to foster disability inclusion in the implementation of EU development funds:

  • The consultation of persons with disabilities and their organisations in the programming of geographic and thematic programmes of the future NDICI.
  • A clear provision to raise awareness about disability in all EU delegations to make inclusion a reality across all programmes and projects in Africa.
  • harmonised and structured approach to data disaggregation by disability across DEVCO funded projects and programmes.
  • concrete approach to systematically support statistic capacities of African partner countries to collect and disaggregated data by disability (Eurostat needs to step up his game as well!).


In terms of timeframe, we will now witness a seven-months negotiation process between the EU and Africa, with key policy makers discussing on the proposal. In May, the AU-EU Ministerial Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of both continents will be another important opportunity to consult African partners. EU Member States’ Ministers and Heads of States will discuss the proposal during a EU summit in June. It is expected that a final version will be agreed. This is this final version which will be presented to the sixth EU African Union Summit in October.

We hope persons with disabilities will be clearly included in the final version of the EU-Africa strategy!