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Speech by Federal Minister Steinmeier at the award of the German Africa Prize to Segolame Lekoko Ramotlhwa in Berlin

25.10.2006 - Speech

Professor Hornhues,
Mr Ramotlhwa,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks for your warm welcome and for this invitation from the Africa Foundation.

I was delighted to accept. If you look at the crises and the foreign-policy agenda of the last few weeks, you will quickly realize that awarding prizes is one of the most appealing tasks of any foreign minister.

Mr Ramotlhwa, you are in the spotlight today. Previous speakers have explained in an impressive fashion why you deserve this year's German Africa Prize.

Your work embodies the will and determination to combat the AIDS pandemic on the African continent.

And you have embarked upon new paths in the fight against AIDS.

A strong alliance comprising the Government, civil society and private sector in Botswana has made sure that more than half of all infected and impoverished patients receive the drugs they need – free of cost.

As previous speakers have pointed out, Merck and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have done all they can to support this alliance.

I believe that your approach has set an example for the whole of Africa. Your work focuses not only on providing treatment but also on disseminating information, removing taboos as well as developing a state health system.

Something which we often merely talk about in Europe has been put into practice in Botswana: a tripartite partnership with an impressive record made up of government, society and the business community.

Mr Ramotlhwa, you also personify a generation which has taken Africa's future into its own hands, which is relying on its own strength and has added substance to the idea of African ownership.

At the same time, your work reminds us that we must not lose sight of the harsh reality.

AIDS is one of the most dangerous threats facing the continent. In Botswana alone, more than 38% of the population is infected.

Many of those who were born after your country gained independence in 1966 are directly confronted with the virus, including a particularly large number of women.

AIDS poses a threat not only to people but also to the stability of many African states.

How can an economy develop in the long term if more than a third of its productive and able-bodied population is infected?

How can public safety and stability be ensured if the institutions responsible, such as the police and administration, are being more or less eaten away from the inside by AIDS?

These questions show that AIDS has long since become a strategic challenge not only for Africa, but also for its partners. Successfully combating the pandemic is the key to peace, stability and economic development on the continent.

AIDS has hit Africa particularly hard at a time when there have also been positive developments – both economic and political.

We sometimes forget that. Instead, we tend to think: good news from Africa? Is that possible?

Yes, it is possible!

Africa's economy is growing by more than 5% - the highest rate since 30 years. For the first time since a generation, there is hope that poverty can be sustainably alleviated and that the continent can integrate into the global economy. Indeed, that it will manage this on its own.

Of course, a large proportion of economic growth is due to rising raw material prices. However, that is not negative as such.

Botswana shows that dealing responsibly with the revenue from resources, in its case mainly diamonds, can benefit large sections of the population.

And people in Botswana are very much aware that "diamonds are not forever". There will be a time after the raw materials boom and it is crucial to be equipped for it.

The momentum generated by the diamond trade must provide the catalyst for creating a broad-based economy, for ensuring that the value added remains in their own country and for gaining a position in the globalized market which is not solely dependent on raw materials.

Incidentally, this applies not only to Botswana. Just think of West Africa where there is an unprecedented oil boom. The states between Nigeria and Angola have the highest rises in oil production – the highest in the world.

Investments in exploitation, infrastructure and processing amount to billions. I believe that this has opened up a window of opportunity which will enable the economies of these countries to begin catching up with the rest of the world.

Some of Africa's other partners have long since recognized this potential. It is no coincidence that the World Bank talks in a current study about a "new Silk Road". This is a clear allusion to Africa's business partners from the Far East, particularly China and India. Many of you know that the exchange between Asia and Africa is booming – both in economic and political terms.

Some 48 African Heads of State and Government are invited to Beijing at the beginning of November. China is well on its way to becoming an attractive alternative partner for Africa.

I do not want to criticize a development which we in Europe have long neglected.

But it is patently clear that a new debt trap caused by cheap loans linked to raw materials is not in the interests of either Europe or African countries. Nor can we ignore it when recognized standards are undermined in economic cooperation, whether it be in the field of fighting corruption or in the field of human rights.

A policy along the lines of: business is business and the rest is none of our concern will not benefit anyone in the medium term, least of all people in Africa.

Political and social stability is also in the interests of international investors. Otherwise their profits will be at risk.

Global initiatives on greater transparency in the raw materials sector – relating to revenue, investments and expenditure, play a key role here. These initiatives depend on the participation of the greatest possible number of states. After all, everyone benefits from more stability in the system. We will discuss this issue during our G8 Presidency with our partners, as well as with key newly industrialized countries.

Stability and security are prerequisites for ensuring that African economic development is not just a flash in the pan. And good governance is necessary if the growing prosperity is to benefit the greatest possible number of people and not just the elites.

Europe will remain a partner at Africa's side. And I do not regard this partnership as a donor-beneficiary relationship, even if the European Union and its member states made available just over 65 billion US dollars last year, more than half of global development funds.

I am talking about a political and economic partnership among equals.

And I am talking about clear foreign and security policy interests which we share with our African partners.

Failing states, domestic and regional crises, migration, the destruction of Africa's ecological basis are – just like the threat posed by AIDS – key issues which also affect our foreign and security policy.

This is demonstrated by both the European and the UN context. Many of you know that the UN Security Council's agenda is dominated by crises and conflicts in Africa. Some 70% of peacekeeping troops around the world are deployed in Africa.

The policy on Africa of Germany and the European Union therefore has a multi-dimensional approach. It is – contrary to an often expressed supposition – not limited to development policy. I say this as Foreign Minister. And I say this out of fairness to our African partners. For the cliché of African countries as passive receivers of aid has long since ceased to be true.

For example, we are cooperating closely with the African Union to help our African partners build up a security architecture on the continent. This includes the pan-African level, where we are cooperating with our interlocutors at the AU in Addis Ababa. However, it also includes collaboration with Africa's regional organizations, for example ECOWAS in the west of the continent, which are evolving into key components in a pan-African peace and security architecture.

Despite some setbacks, as well as justified criticism, considerable progress has been made, particularly when it comes to African standby forces which are to be in place by 2010. Five brigades will then carry out stabilization measures on their own in Africa's five regions. This is just one example.

In the mid-nineties, the Swiss journalist Georg Brunold published a book titled "Afrika gibt es nicht" (There is no Africa). He is alluding to the continent's diversity, as well as to Europe's limited perception which has been reduced to wars and disasters.

I think he is right. The uniformly negative image of Africa really is not accurate. Reality on the continent is much more diverse and much more colourful than many here in Europe believe. I do not think there is any cause for Afro-pessimism.

You, Mr Ramotlhwa, demonstrate this with your day-to-day work.

And here in Germany, the Africa Foundation is working hard to correct Africa's image and to encourage understanding for the continent.

I would like to sincerely thank you, Mr Ramotlhwa, as well as the Africa Foundation, for your work.

And I urge you to steadfastly continue your efforts.

You can count on my support.

Thank you very much.

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