To say that Africa/ African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) relations are postcolonial in
nature should be stating the obvious, and yet studies that discuss and analyse Africa- EU relations from a postcolonial perspective or through postcolonial approaches are hard to come by. 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. In particular, the dominant narratives of asymmetry locate African states as being in a weaker position, thus silencing the articulations of African agency. Yet in undertaking a postcolonial account and paying attention to resistance towards the EU’s imposed EPAs – through diplomacy by state actors and the actions of civil society – this chapter is able to highlight African agency in the context of Africa- EU relations.
Throughout this chapter, references to and examples of the politics around EPA negotiations– launched in 2000 and which were supposed to be finalised by 2007 in order to meet a World Trade Organization (WTO)- mandated deadline – are analysed through postcolonial approaches with the aim of contextualising the reasons as to why negotiations did not lead to the signing of EPAs by the 2007 deadline. Accordingly, after discussing what postcolonial approaches are, this chapter discusses how to consider and analyse colonial legacy by decentring Europe, how to analyse partnership from a postcolonial perspective, how to contextualise market liberalisation in a changing world order within a context of a postcolonial global economy, as well as how regional actorness should be analysed through the politicisation and rearticulation of subjectivity.