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.


Diana Mickevičienė

Diana Mickevičienė is a diplomat, currently serving as the Director of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Pacific Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania. She was born in 1972 in Lithuania and joined Foreign Service in 1994.

She has diplomas in Philosophy, History and Political Science from Vilnius University in Lithuania. Besides being a career diplomat, she teaches South Asian History and the History of Indian culture in Vilnius University and writes and talks on South Asian subjects.

She did professional course for young diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi, India, and came back to India again in 1999 to study Indian culture at the National Museum. As a diplomat she was posted at the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in 2001-2004, and at the Embassy of Lithuania in New Delhi in 2011-2014 as the Minister Counsellor.

In 2011 Diana Mickevičienė published her first book "All of My Indias" -  an informative combination of her diary of her stay in India, critical social observations and her academic knowledge in Indian studies.

Diana Mickevičienė is married, with two children.

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).


Richard Mugisha

Richard Mugisha is the Managing partner of Trust Law Chambers based in Kigali- Rwanda which he founded in February 2004. The Law firm specializes in Commercial work.  Prior to establishing the firm, he was the Director, Procurement Policy and Legal affairs at the Rwanda National Tender Board for a period of five years. During this period, he also doubled as a State attorney and an alternate member of the Privatization Commission.  While in Private Legal Practice, Richard was appointed to serve on several committees by the Government of Rwanda. From September 2005 to December 2007, he served as the Chairman of the Commercial Law Reform Task Force which over saw the drafting of 14 new commercial laws including the Companies Act, the establishment of a Specialized Commercial Court system and a Commercial Registration Services Agency. In June 2005, Richard was appointed as a member of the National Regional Integration Committee where he was very instrumental in the negotiations which led to Rwanda’s accession to the East African Community.  In January 2007, Richard also served as a member of the Financial Sector Development Steering Committee. Currently he serves as Chairman of Airtel Rwanda, Chairman of UAP Insurance Rwanda, and a member of the Board of Directors of I&M Bank where he chairs the Board committee on Administration, Procurement and Remuneration.  He was the President of the East Africa Law Society between 2016 and 2018. He is a fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative and the Aspen Global Leadership Network. He is also the Honorary Consul of Lithuania to the Republic of Rwanda.

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.

Saara Ndinelago Vranckx

Saara Ndinelago Vranckx is a legal practitioner of the High Court of Namibia and a Legislative Drafter. Saara holds a Master degree, specialized in Public International Law and International Economic, Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Communication and Psychology and a Post Graduate Diploma in Legislative Drafting. Currently, Saara is working as the Counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Namibia in Finland.

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.