Words of welcome by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the celebration of Africa Day 2023 organised by the Group of African Ambassadors accredited in Berlin in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office
“Let us all unite and celebrate together”
That is the title of the AU anthem that you played at the beginning of today’s festivities. And I must say, distinguished ambassadors, you have certainly taken your anthem at its word!
Being able to host this Africa Day together with you is a tremendous honour. Thank you for this kind gesture.
And, I have to say, it is actually rather nice to be invited to a party at our own Guest House!
There is another reason why this is an excellent location for celebrating Africa Day. Just next door is the Foreign Service Academy where we train all our future diplomats.
I think it is great to know that so many of these young colleagues who are starting their diplomatic careers right here, right now, in this beautiful spot, will at some point in their career be working on your home soil – in countries on the African continent.
Africa is home to more than a quarter of our embassies worldwide – some 43 embassies.
What is more, we are increasing our presence. This month, we opened a new Embassy in Banjul in the Gambia.
What I myself think is even better news is that when we ask our young diplomats here at the Academy where they would like to go on their first posting – the answer is not always New York or Paris.
What we keep hearing is:
“I want to go to Nairobi, to Addis, to Windhoek”.
Sadly, I am not a 25-year-old trainee diplomat. But I have to admit that I can absolutely see why they want to go there.
You just underlined that when we talk about important challenges in the world, the climate crisis and others, we unfortunately often see hotspots in Africa - in countries which have done little to cause the climate crisis but which have to deal with its most horrible impacts. But it is also clear that most of the solutions lie in Africa, not only because of women power but also because of the young generation on the African continent.
In recent months, I had the privilege to travel to several African countries, to the Sahel, to Nigeria, and to the heart of the African Union, to Addis, in Ethiopia.
What’s been evident to me on all these trips is our clear priority to strengthen our ties with you – our partners on the African continent.
We are seeking partnerships that are beneficial to both sides. Partnerships that allow us to build on each other’s expertise, to learn from our different experiences.
But also – and to me this is important and has maybe been underestimated in the past – we need to learn from our differences. It’s not unity if we're all the same. Our experience in Europe has shown this. Unity in diversity. This is actually our biggest strength.
I believe we’ll only succeed together on our common planet if we are willing to openly address the wounds of the past as well: our European colonial history that brought so much pain and suffering to your continent.
That’s why I am very grateful for the frank conversations that many of you have been having with us, here and in your capitals: on questions of restitution, rights and responsibility.
Only if we listen, only if we reflect on each other’s views, can we move ahead and deal with the challenges we face together – here and now.
That certainly holds true for our response to war and conflicts.
It also holds true for threats to our democracies, like the dangerous spread of disinformation and fake news.
And of course it holds true for the biggest security challenge of our time: the climate crisis which is hitting Africa with merciless force – bringing droughts and floods, hunger and suffering.
As you know, we are now also focusing on international climate diplomacy at the Federal Foreign Office.
When I went on my first visits, especially to African countries, climate security was always top of the agenda. After all, in African countries you understood the importance of this earlier because you are unfortunately already facing the consequences. The climate crisis is our biggest security threat. But what I've also seen, and for me this is the important point, is that it is also in Africa where we are seeing tremendous ambition in moving towards solutions, towards green energy.
A few weeks ago, Kenyan President William Ruto was here in Berlin. He told us how Kenya already derives around 90 percent of its total energy from renewable sources. And the target is 100 percent by 2030. That’s more than impressive. This is actually the benchmark we Europeans are looking at. So I think working together in this field is not only a huge opportunity for closer cooperation, it's also the answer for economic development, not only in Africa but also in Europe.
On this crucial matter, as well as on the many other areas of our cooperation, we want to see where your particular needs and interests are and how we can move forward together.
I am thinking here of our bilateral relations.
But also of our partnership with the organisation we are celebrating today: the African Union.
On this day 60 years ago, 32 Heads of State and Government came together in Addis Ababa to form an organisation to unify the African continent and to accelerate its de-colonialisation.
At the core of the African Union, you find a vision of closely connected societies that share a common identity, guided by the desire for peace, prosperity and fundamental freedoms.
This is a vision with which we in Germany and in Europe very much identify. This is why the European Union was founded.
Germany and the EU are proud to be one of the oldest and closest partners of the AU and its success story. And I am very happy to have so many Ambassadors of EU member states with us today. A very warm welcome to you.
Allow me to highlight two reasons why I am so confident that this success story will continue:
Firstly, progress needs vision. In this the tenth year of Agenda 2063, the African Union is not growing tired of being visionary.
Just take one of the Agenda’s flagship programmes which also featured in today’s panel discussions: the African Continental Free Trade Area.
A single African market has the potential to double trade between African countries within decades and to create one of the largest integrated markets on the planet: A free trade zone that we hope will one day be directly linked to the European single market.
That is why Germany is the biggest bilateral supporter of this endeavour.
Secondly, it’s clear that Africa has a key role to play in this world.
Africa is the fastest growing continent on the planet and will be home to a quarter of the world’s population by 2050. It’s young, it’s dynamic. It’s female. It will be a key social and economic driver in the future.
At the same time, Africa’s potential for renewable energies, and for sustainably transforming the global economy, is enormous.
Africa is therefore demanding a greater role in international fora. We believe you’re absolutely right to do so!
That’s why we support the AU in its bid to join the G20.
That’s why we support African aspirations for permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
And that’s why we will also continue to work hard to increase the share of African leaders at the helm of international organisations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s party here at this beautiful location is probably one of the biggest ever to be held in these grounds.
So let’s use this great opportunity and do as your anthem tells us:
“Let us all unite and celebrate together”.
Happy Africa Day!