More than 300 entrepreneurs from Africa and Germany gathered in Berlin for the first German‑African Business Summit (GABS). They were invited by the new Sub-Saharan Africa Initiative of German Business (SAFRI). In his opening address, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier spotlighted the optimistic economic signals from Africa – such as the fact that in 2015 foreign direct investments have exceeded development assistance for the first time.
First summit of this kind in Germany
The Business Summit is the first of its kind in Germany. It stems from a joint initiative launched by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services (BGA) and the German-African Business Association (AV). The German Government is represented by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as the Federal Foreign Office.
Over two days, around 300 participants discussed opportunities and challenges facing German enterprises in the emerging African economy, ways to establish successful cooperation between companies and future trends in Africa. In his opening address, Foreign Minister Steinmeier admitted that there were still fragile states, malnutrition and violent conflicts in Africa. But he went on to say that there were statistics which gave grounds for optimism:
According to the World Bank, six of the eleven fastest-growing economies will be in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.
Malnutrition rates have fallen by a quarter since 1990.
And, despite all the ongoing violence, the Global Peace Index says Sub-Saharan Africa has on the whole become more peaceful.
That’s the other side of Africa.
Steinmeier said that this was creating huge economic potential – reflected in the level of foreign direct investments for 2015, which had exceeded the amount of development assistance for the first time ever. He explained that the area of infrastructure in particular was experiencing a “massive growth spurt”. He added that the Federal Foreign Office would therefore continue to expand foreign trade promotion in Africa, for instance by providing support for chambers of commerce or new possibilities in connection with Hermes export credit guarantees.
“Massive growth spurt” in infrastructure
With regard to the security situation Steinmeier emphasised that the Federal Foreign Office would continue to invest in crisis prevention in Africa, and had earmarked around 115 million euros to this end in 2015 alone. He went on to say that forward‑looking foreign policy was, after all, the best kind of security policy. However, he expressed his concern that limitations on the duration of terms served by those in power were being ignored in several African countries, saying that this contravened “the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which clearly states that the constitutional transfer of power is a crucial aspect of a peaceful, changing society!”
Directly after the GABS, on 9 September, the International Economic Forum on Africa (IEFA) took place in Berlin, taking as its theme “Africa Beyond 2015”. This annual meeting organised by the OECD Development Center focuses primarily on development policy issues and is usually held in Paris. This year it was hosted by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development against the backdrop of Germany’s G7 Presidency.