10:00 – 11:30 – Panel Discussion: The State of Play in the Renewed Africa-EU Partnership. Priorities and Agendas of African Countries

More than ten years on from the launch of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy in Lisbon, both the European Union and Africa have gone through profound political, economic and societal changes. Given the general feeling that the partnership no longer corresponds to new realities in both regions, we have been witnessing numerous efforts to modernize the partnership adapting to the new situation. These initiatives include the Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council for a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU Partnership, the Joint Declaration of the 5th Africa-EU Summit in Abidjan, the launch of the European Investment Plan, post-Cotonou discussions, and most recent, the Communication on a new Africa – Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, taking our partnership for investment and jobs to the next level.

The objective of this panel discussion is to present the status quo of the Africa-EU partnership, highlighting  key changes and examining  new opportunities for future engagement.


Birgitte Markussen

Birgitte Markussen was appointed Director, Deputy Managing Director for Africa in the European External Action Service in June 2016. As of December 2018 she became European External Action Service Expert on the European Investment Bank Board of Directors. Prior to her present position in the European External Action Service, Mrs Markussen was Director for Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark from September 2012 to May 2016. Between September 2010 and August 2012, she was the Danish Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic. From September 2008 up to September 2010, Mrs Markussen was the Deputy Director for Environment, Energy and Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and from 2005 to 2008 Deputy Head of Mission at the Danish Embassy in Uganda (accredited to Rwanda and Burundi). Mrs Markussen is married and mother of two children. She has a Ph.D. in Ethnography and Social Anthropology (University of Aarhus, Denmark).

Iina Soiri

Iina Soiri is director of NAI since 1 March 2013. She has previously worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland as senior advisor on development policy 2011-2013 and in the Embassy of Finland in Dar es Salaam as senior expert in governance 2006-2010.  Iina has spent 20 years on the African continent as development practitioner, researcher, diplomat and consultant working for civil society, academic and public sector. She has special experience in working with women in post conflict countries like Namibia, Mozambique and Angola and proven expertise on local governance and democracy.


Dr Sithembile Mbete

Dr Sithembile Mbete is a lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria where she lecturers international relations and South African politics. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Centre for Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria. She has a doctorate from the University of Pretoria on the subject of South Africa’s foreign policy during its two elected terms in the United Nations Security Council (2007-2008 and 2011-2012). She has published on the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) and South African elections in accredited academic journals. Her research has been funded by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Science (NIHSS), National Research Foundation (NRF), the American Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Mellon Foundation. She is a 2019 Open Society Foundation Democracy Fellow and will be conducting research on the South African electoral system.

She comments frequently in the media on a range of issues in South African and international politics.