The German government has hosted the second major ‘Africa Conference’, a forum for strengthening and developing cooperation between Germany and the continent.
Merkel’s message in the House of German Business in Berlin was clear: “Whether it’s global peace, climate protection, economic development, migration, or other major issues of our time – we all agree that Africa, with its more than 50 states and a growing, young population, has an important role to play in solving global issues”.
“Crisis Continent” Africa
From crisis continent to crisis management continent – this interpretation is intended to make Africa appealing above all to investors from the EU and Germany. For this, however, the Chancellor says, further improvements are needed in government leadership, on the ground, in Africa: “We believe that more transparency can also bring more investors to these countries. Where do I invest, and what conditions do I find?”
An investment fund with a volume of one billion euros has been set up. Above all, small and medium-sized businesses could take advantage of these funds in order to invest locally and to contribute their know-how – in training and infrastructure. But African start-ups should also be able to get money more easily.
Reinhard Palm of Brot für die Welt criticises that the the idea is well thought out but poorly executed: “A large part of the money, 600 million euros, actually goes only to German and European companies, which are medium-sized and large companies. Even here it is the case that smaller German companies leave empty-handed.”
The “Compact with Africa” approach has also been criticised by other development aid organisations and the opposition as not being effective. The FDP called the initiative an ineffective solo attempt by the Chancellor, and Uwe Kekeritz of the Greens sees a paternalistic approach, i.e. talking down to Africa and not as equals. “At the moment we are still in the process, and this “Compact” with Africa is a particularly negative example of bringing ideas from outside to Africa, saying this is how it has to work, and that’s how you can do it, and then we’ll support you. This is the wrong way.”
The Chancellor, however, encouraged German companies to continue on the path of investment. Among other things, she stated, there should be state guarantees for this. According to her, a lot has been accomplished in African countries, even if many problems, such as the fight against terrorism, have not yet been solved.
China and Russia bad role models
Till Stellmacher, an Africa expert, calls for the political price not to be lost sight of, despite all the focus on economic interests: “Of course you have to be careful not to pay this political price, leaving out issues such as democracy and human rights completely and only keeping an eye on foreign investment. You should avoid competing with countries like China and Russia that don’t have human rights on the agenda.”
According to human rights organisations, one who does not take human rights very seriously is the Egyptian President Al-Sisi. He is also in Berlin, celebrating his birthday today – and received the very best wishes from the Chancellor: “Congratulations, Mr President, all the best, you”.
Egypt has 100 million inhabitants, among them are very many, very young, very mobile people. If you want to do business in Africa, there’s no avoding Al-Sisi’s Egypt.