Olaf Scholz expected this week in Africa to discuss cooperation and security. One year after an African tour of 2022, his first outside Europe. The German Chancellor wants to confirm the importance of Africa for his country and for Europe.
Olaf Scholz expected this week in Ethiopia and Kenya to discuss cooperation and security. One year after an African tour of 2022, his first outside Europe. The German Chancellor wants to confirm the importance of Africa for his country and for Europe. Analysis:
Olaf Scholz the African
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will have a lot of work to do to make Angela Merkel, who preceded him in that position for 16 years, forget her. This is especially true for Africa, where Merkel was appreciated, especially because she was more open than her European partners to the idea of welcoming “non regular” immigrants. She also launched the G20 Africa Compact, which aims to stimulate foreign investment in the continent.
Perhaps that is why Olaf Scholz wasted no time in making his first trip to Africa. After taking office, it took Merkel more than two years to get there. Mr. Scholz waited only five months. That he chose Africa rather than Asia or South America for his first tour outside Europe “did not go unnoticed” at the end of May 2022.
Scholz had visited Senegal, Niger and South Africa as part of a carefully orchestrated tour, according to German government officials and journalists. Energy, regional security and trade were the main issues discussed – as well as Ukraine, although the latter topic remains rather ambiguous.
The German chancellor also discussed the G20 Compact with Africa project during this tour.
Olaf Scholz expected in Africa this week to discuss cooperation and security
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (photo) will visit Kenya and Ethiopia this week during a mini-tour of East Africa. The information was reported by several media sources citing German government officials.
According to initial reports, the visit is expected to last three days and will begin on Thursday, May 4. The first stop of the leader will be in Ethiopia and will be the occasion for a meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat. With the two leaders, the chancellor will discuss the peace process in Tigray and the situation in Sudan, which is going through a major political, economic and security crisis. On Friday, Olaf Scholz will travel to Kenya where he will meet with President William Ruto to discuss economic cooperation.
Olaf Scholz expected in Africa this week to discuss cooperation and security
This visit, the second by Chancellor Scholz to Africa since he took office, underscores the German government’s continued interest in the continent, despite a major change in power in Berlin. Indeed, former Chancellor Angela Merkel, considered a friend of Africa, had managed to forge important ties with the continent throughout her term in a context of growing competition with other countries such as China or the United States.
While this competition is now taking place against a backdrop of friction with Russia, which has alienated a large part of the international community following the invasion of Ukraine, Olaf Scholz’s visit seems to indicate that Berlin also wants to score points in this war of influence between foreign powers, of which Africa has become a major theater.
In Kenya, which is considered the most important economy in East Africa and the gateway to the sub-regional market, Olaf Scholz is expected to discuss with President Ruto cooperation in the field of renewable energy and specifically green hydrogen.
“We hope that green hydrogen can eventually be imported from Kenya,” said a German government source quoted by the media.
Germany’s new ambitions in Africa”
“Africa is growing and changing enormously. Its development will shape the 21stᵉ century – and thus also the future of Germany and Europe.” With these words, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze (SPD) presented Germany’s new strategy for the African continent.
Germany would like to pursue a global structural development policy in which Africa is an important partner. Whether it is Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, China’s growing influence in Africa or the consequences of the climate crisis, all current global challenges call for the integration of Africa into the country’s strategic thinking.
The German strategy aims to build partnerships based on mutual respect and reciprocity. Berlin insists that it is not so much the concrete projects to be implemented to promote African development that are important, but rather the way in which they are carried out and the attitude that guides these actions. Germany wants to promote human rights and democracy, to take into account the interests of its partners, but also, naturally, to defend its own interests.
European dependence on Africa’s natural resources
Despite these divergent trajectories and sometimes conflicting ambitions, the destinies of Europe and Africa remain intimately linked. The European Union remains by far Africa’s most important trading partner, accounting for more than 30% of its foreign trade with the EU. Above all, Europe will remain dependent for a long time on imports of raw materials necessary for the energy transition, such as lithium and cobalt.
In addition, African production accounts for 80% of the world’s platinum group metals, 55% of chromium, 49% of palladium, 45% of vanadium, and the continent has the largest reserves of bauxite, chromium, cobalt, diamonds and gold in the world. It is also rich in phosphates, titanium minerals, vanadium and zircon.
Climate crisis a challenge and an asset for Africa
The other asset up the sleeve of Africans is ecological. Because of its biodiversity, Africa has the greatest capacity in the world to maintain and strengthen the balance of the biosphere and thus avoid further depletion of the ozone layer.
However, the tropical forests of the Congo Basin are increasingly threatened. This is not the only reason why the possible effects of global climate trends are more present on the African continent than anywhere else. Seven of the ten countries most affected by climate change are in Africa. In the Sahel, but also in eastern and southern Africa, temperatures have already risen threateningly, bringing with them droughts and economic and social conflicts.
Population explosion an opportunity for German industry
To open a new chapter in its relationship with Africa, Germany could look at issues that have been on the table for a long time, such as agricultural trade reform. Or it could look at the challenges of the future, such as demographics and the economy.
Africa is indeed the continent with the fastest growing population. While 1.3 billion people live on the continent today, this number is expected to double to 2.5 billion by 2050. Without economic growth and new job creation by then, the economic and social crisis on the continent will be brutal. According to a study (by the Africa Department of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation) every year about 20 million Africans (mostly young people) are looking for a job that simply does not exist.
This is a need for Africa, and an opportunity for Germany and its industry, whose markets in China and Russia are becoming increasingly uncertain.
Nevertheless, Christoph Kannengießer, secretary general of the German employers’ association, points out that German companies have so far hardly made use of the existing opportunities in Africa. For German politicians, there is a window of opportunity to act in favor of direct investments in Africa.
Obstacles and misunderstandings to be removed
The demons of the past
Germany, as is often ignored, was also a colonial power. From 1884 to 1919, the Second German Reich possessed several territories in Africa (Togo, Cameroon, South West Africa – now Namibia – and East Africa – now Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania), in China (the Kiautschou trading post) and in the Pacific Ocean (in New Guinea and Samoa).
Having expressed public apologies for some of the crimes committed at the time, anti-European (mainly anti-French) sentiment is contagious.
In some African countries, the image of their leaders raising their voices in front of German officials can pay off in electoral terms. Especially if the Russian bear passes by!
German troops to withdraw from Mali by May 2024
The German government agreed on Wednesday to withdraw its troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali by May 2024 due to tensions with the ruling junta.
The government of Olaf Scholz confirmed in a statement that German soldiers of the Bundeswehr will gradually leave the country over the next twelve months.
With about 1,000 soldiers, Germany is the largest Western contributor to the difficult UN mission to help stabilize the country. “Whether we like it or not, what is happening in the Sahel affects us,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was quoted as saying on Wednesday. This is why Berlin intends to remain in the Sahel region, and to reorient its commitment in the areas of security in Niger, Mauritania and the Gulf of Guinea states, she said.
This new positioning worries some African spheres. It also reflects the eternal German procrastination!
Earlier this year, a community manager at the German Foreign Ministry shared his clash-like taunt on Twitter.
The connection of two events is the poor man’s comic spring. The author of the polemical tweet undertakes to telescope two news:
The visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to several African countries and the German decision, announced on January 25, to deliver fourteen Leopard 2 type 2A6 battle tanks to Ukraine.
“Russian Foreign Minister #Lavrov is in Africa, not to see leopards (word represented by an emoji) but to state in no uncertain terms that #Ukraine’s partners “want to destroy everything Russian”,” tweeted the German Foreign Ministry.
The spokeswoman for the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AU) asks on the same social network:
“Is the African continent, its people and its wildlife just a joke to the Germans?”
Ebba Kalondo asks whether the recent visit of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to the AU headquarters in Ethiopia was to “see animals.”
Zainab Usman (director of the Africa program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) is more outspoken, calling the German tweet inelegant for carrying “horrible stereotypes about Africa,” which should prevent Berlin from “winning African friends.