by Luke Hally, founding Director of Terra Nova Consultancy, Brussels
The European Peace Facility (EPF) plays a significant role in Africa by supporting continental security initiatives. As an instrument of the European Union (EU), the EPF finances armament and operational support for security actions, including peacekeeping operations. It aims to enhance the EU’s ability to address security challenges and promote stability in Africa, particularly in unstable regions. The EPF facilitates the provision of equipment, training, and logistical assistance to African partners, strengthening their ability to respond to security threats. Force projection, the deployment of military capabilities to achieve political objectives, also plays a role in stabilising the African continent. Despite the EU’s geopolitical interests in Africa, there are limitations to the EPF’s effectiveness in complementing African security preservation. An elucidation of effective reform can be highlighted in assessing these challenges.
The challenges of force projection
Within the context of EU policy, force projection safeguards European interests, promotes stability, and contributes to international security. In Africa, force projection holds relevance for the EU due to the continent’s strategic importance, security challenges, and economic opportunities. By projecting force, the EU aims to address conflicts, counter terrorism, protect trade routes, and enhance its regional influence. However, force projection must be implemented within a framework of cooperation, adherence to international law, and respect for the sovereignty of African nations.
The EPF is a key instrument in financing military operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and supporting the African Union’s Peace Support Operations. It can also provide military and defence assistance to partner countries beyond Africa, helping regions facing security challenges. Additionally, it can equip partners with military equipment, ensuring compliance with human rights and International Humanitarian Law. By enhancing the EU’s ability to project force, the EPF aims to complement strategic effectiveness in Africa.
As a strategic element of EU policy, force projection to Africa faces numerous challenges, obligations, and limitations. First, political hurdles within the EU, such as diverging national interests and lengthy decision-making processes, hinder effective coordination and cooperation. This lack of unity undermines the EU’s ability to project a coherent force. Second, rules of engagement limit the extent to which force can be deployed, particularly concerning respect for human rights, international law, and the principle of non-interference in sovereign nations’ affairs. Third, African nations often resist external military intervention due to historical legacies, concerns over neo-colonialism, and a desire to maintain autonomy in resolving conflicts. These challenges have led to third-party gains within Africa.
EU regional gains usurped by Russia
Russian threats to EU influence have involved private military corporations such as Wagner PMC, who have gained strategic prominence by engaging in security operations for African clients and not being beholden to the challenges and obligations of EU operations. Wagner’s entry into Africa has been controversial, conducting covert operations, human rights violations, regional destabilisation, and backing autocratic regimes. They compete for contracts with their experience, networks, and combat effectiveness. Furthermore, its legal and privatised nature has allowed the group to rapidly usurp EU regional gains and strategic objectives, such as in Mali, Chad, Sudan, and Burkina Faso. Wagner’s presence has since expanded to 19 African nations. Wagner also operates a mining company, Midas, which receives concessions for security support, solidifying its strategic position in Africa. With the release and cooperation of arms dealer Viktor Bout, they will be able to access a substantial supply of Russian weaponry, increasing interoperability and formidability. This influence risks establishing an African alliance counter to EU strategic interests.
Mixed results for the EPF’s implementation
The EPF’s effectiveness in utilising force projection as a strategic element of EU policy requires careful evaluation. Assessing the EPF’s implementation and outcomes reveals mixed results. While the EPF has facilitated some successful force projection operations in Africa, challenges persist. For instance, the EPF’s fragmented funding mechanisms and reliance on voluntary contributions limit its sustainable impact. Furthermore, the EPF’s focus on military solutions can overshadow the importance of addressing underlying socio-economic and political factors contributing to conflicts. Additionally, the EPF’s limited focus on capacity building and long-term institutional strengthening in African partner countries may undermine security sustainability. Further aligning with European operations in Africa, such as the prior Operation Barkhane, would improve the versatility and long-term objectives of the EPF. Ensuring training, operations, and equipment align with Member States’ strategic engagement will ensure a symbiotic reinforcement of objectives for the states involved and the EPF. Increased interoperability could have alleviated the strategic pitfalls of French operations in the Sahel. Additionally, EPF alignment can benefit new strategic approaches such as SQF-MILOF (Sectoral Qualification Framework for the Military Officer Profession).
The EU needs a holistic approach
Several critiques and approaches to force projection in Africa can be identified. The EPF’s approach is predominantly militaristic, neglecting the effective oversight of multidimensional security approaches, conflict prevention, and due diligence of lessons learned. A holistic approach that integrates interoperability, security governance, and human rights dimensions is essential. Alternative strategies for EPF engagement in Africa’s security challenges include greater emphasis on regional integration, further support for African-led peacekeeping initiatives, and investing in long-term conflict prevention. Additionally, fostering stronger partnerships with African states and respecting their leadership and decision-making processes can enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of force projection efforts. Force projection to Africa remains distant as a strategic element of EU policy. The EPF’s limitations and criticisms highlight the need for improved strategies and policy adjustments. By adopting a comprehensive cooperative approach and addressing conflict causes, the EU can enhance its role in promoting peace, stability, and development in Africa.
is of Irish origin. Founding Director of the Terra Nova Consultancy in Brussels, he is a security risk policy professional with expertise in human security, EU affairs and governance relations. Mr Hally’s core focus is on East Asian conflict analysis, climate threats, and European security policy with five years of security research experience at global and EU levels. His current research focuses on the EU security strategy in the Sahel, Ukraine and European nation-state shifts from neutrality to alignment.