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The EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in December ended with a 100-page declaration about a new partnership building on lessons from the past. The nice general formulations cannot cover up the chasm between the partners. A majority of the African delegates turned down the EU’s draft of a new trade agreement. This may result in higher tariffs for import of African goods to EU in 2008. The aid to Africa is not seriously affected by this, but in the longer run, Europe may be losing some of its foothold in Africa, as Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade formulated it. Of course, Europe is very much aware of the increased competition from other parts of the world, viz. China.
Higher education is not high on the agenda even on the EU aid budget, which is mainly dedicated to infrastructure, and, in education, primary education, however large the agreement on health assistance. The holistic attitude to education that African countries have formulated over the years has not penetrated into the millennium goals or the EU aid budget. It may well be that proposals on cooperation in higher education will have a harder time being financed, in spite of the very real successes of university partnerships and academic cooperation.
It could be said that the African research agenda is upheld by external finances and we know now what research means to modern societies.