Last updated in December 2017
Bilateral relations are good. Since Bolivian President Evo Morales visited Berlin and Hamburg in November 2015 with a large ministerial delegation, the two countries have maintained a relatively frequent exchange of visits. In January 2016 and March 2017, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Rainer Bomba, travelled to Bolivia with a business delegation. The two countries held consultations on foreign policy issues in late March 2017. In July 2017, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of High Energy Technologies, Luís Alberto Echazú Alvarado, visited several cities in Germany. The Bolivian Environment and Water Minister, Carlos Ortuño Yañez, attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn in early December 2017. Bolivia regards Germany as a major partner in the country’s economic modernisation, especially in the infrastructure and energy sectors.
Bolivia’s main exports to Germany are mineral resources (lead, tin and silver ores) and agricultural produce (nuts, coffee, soya products, quinoa and millet) as well as leather and textile goods. Its main imports from Germany are machinery, motor vehicles and vehicle parts, chemical and pharmaceutical products, electrical goods and measurement and control technology. The 1997 investment protection agreement between the two countries was unilaterally terminated by Bolivia in May 2013. For existing investments, however, protection will stay in effect for another 20 years. There are, nevertheless, interesting investment opportunities for German companies in Bolivia, especially in the following sectors: infrastructure (railways and roads), energy (conventional and renewable energy sources), heath care and mining (lithium). President Morales is interested in high-quality technology and technology transfer and in importing the German vocational training system. He sees Germany as an important partner in the country’s modernisation.
Bilateral trade between Germany and Bolivia in 2016 was worth approximately 282 million euros, with Bolivian exports to Germany totalling 142 million euros and Bolivian imports from Germany 140 million euros. In 2016, there was a marked increase in Bolivian exports to Germany as well as a decline in German exports to Bolivia, resulting in Bolivia’s first trade surplus with Germany in many years. The German-Bolivian Chamber of Industry and Commerce is the largest bilateral chamber of commerce in the country. It celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015.
Bolivia, South America’s poorest country in terms of per capita income, is a partner country of German development cooperation and currently one of the largest per capita recipients of bilateral German development cooperation in South America. Aggregate German development cooperation with Bolivia since the early 1960s amounts to more than one billion euros. At the most recent intergovernmental negotiations in May 2017, new commitments totalling approximately 48 million euros were made for a two-year period.
Development cooperation with Bolivia focuses on three priority areas: drinking water supply and sanitation, sustainable rural development as well as energy, with a focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Decentralisation, environmental and climate protection, gender and indigenous orientation and vocational training are important cross-cutting issues. Helping Bolivia implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the leitmotif of the bilateral development cooperation.
German development cooperation is geared towards supporting medium and long-term structural reform under Bolivia’s 2009 constitution. Partner orientation and promoting the establishment of democratic structures and the rule of law are key elements of German development cooperation. Germany assists in particular the Bolivian Government’s efforts to reduce poverty, to strengthen political, economic and social participation and to increase resilience to the consequences of climate change, to which Bolivia is highly susceptible.
Above and beyond these three areas, German development cooperation has at its disposal a wide range of instruments for cooperation that involves non-governmental actors, the private sector and municipalities. In addition, the German Embassy has funding available to support microprojects and small-scale climate protection and human rights projects.
German development cooperation is a part of the joint strategy of the European Union and EU member states that are active in Bolivia, including Switzerland (European Joint Strategy 2017-2020), which aims to further optimise the efficiency and coherence as well as the policy effectiveness of European development cooperation.
Culture and education
Cultural relations between Germany and Bolivia date back to the first major wave of German merchants and craftspeople that immigrated to Bolivia in the mid-19th century. In 2014, the German Cultural Centre (Centro Cultural Alemán) celebrated its 100th anniversary, the Goethe-Institut the 60th anniversary of its work in Bolivia and the PASCH school Ave Maria in La Paz the 50th anniversary of its founding. The German-Bolivian Chamber of Industry and Commerce celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015. There exists a very active town twinning arrangement between the Bolivian capital La Paz and the German city of Bonn.
Important elements in Germany’s cultural relations with Bolivia are the German Schools in La Paz and Santa Cruz, the Goethe-Institut in La Paz and the German-Bolivian cultural societies in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Sucre. In addition, other schools in La Paz, Oruro, Sucre and Cochabamba receive support for German teaching under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). The dual system of training as export/import merchants and industrial sales management assistants, which is jointly offered by the German School in La Paz and the German-Bolivian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, has been in place for the past 25 years. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) support cooperation at university level. A DAAD lector has been working in La Paz since 2013.
Under its Cultural Preservation Programme, Germany provides substantial financial support for the preservation and restoration of Bolivia’s cultural and historical heritage. In recent years, the restoration of frescoes at the Santa Clara Convent in Sucre and the renovation of the church at Yunguyo were funded under this programme. Projects to preserve the Guaraní culture and an archaeological site near Peñas were also supported. In 2016, Federal Foreign Office funding enabled the digitisation of historical photographs from Bolivia taken from the archives of the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig. In 2019, it is planned to mount a joint exhibition of the photographs in cooperation with Bolivia’s National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore.
In addition, the German Embassy in La Paz and the Goethe-Institut support a host of cultural events in Bolivia, ranging from music, dance and theatre to art exhibitions and film screenings, and provide financial and organisational assistance with the major festivals that are held in Bolivia at regular intervals. In 2017, Germany was the Guest Country of Honour at the International Book Fair of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.
The Plurinational State of Bolivia is a partner country of German development cooperation. For more information, please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development