This chapter outlines the importance of postcolonial approaches for the study of Africa-EU relations. It contextualises such approaches in negotiation practices and outcomes of the EU proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Though academic literature on Africa-EU relations tends to define such relations as being asymmetrical, the politics around the negotiations of the EPAs through postcolonial lenses reveals contestations around the assumptions of such asymmetries. The very constitution of the EU was also a product of colonial legacy. The pursuits of European colonisers stretched throughout the world, but unlike the Americas and Asia, Africa held a special place in the efforts to construct European economic integration. Since the 1990s, Africa-EU relations have been based on neoliberal principles, with the EU considering trade and market liberalisation as central to poverty reduction while African leaders have also equated it with development.
This article deploys world-systems analysis and the concept of coloniality to
examine the experience of the African people within the modern world-system
since 1492, a date that figuratively marks the birth of the modern world-system
and its shifting international orders. Africa’s experience is contextualized within
six international orders: the post-1492 order, the Westphalian order that emerged
in 1648, the post-1884–1885 Berlin consensus, the post-1945 United Nations
normative order, the Cold War epoch that ended in 1989, the current neoliberal
dispensation as well as the post 9/11 anti-terrorism and securitization. While
Africans have actively contested Euro–North American hegemony throughout these
periods, they have not yet succeeded in breaking the strong global technologies of
coloniality that continue to prevent the possibilities of African agency. This is why
this article ends with a call for deepening the decolonization and deimperialization
of the international order in the twenty-first century.