Welcome

Speech by Guido Westerwelle at a dinner hosted by the Southern African German Chamber of Commerce and Industry

09.04.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text--

Mr Boddenberg,

Mr Möller,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for welcoming me here today and for your kind introductory words.

On behalf of the entire delegation, I thank you most warmly for inviting us to this beautiful Club. Please also accept belated Easter greetings from Berlin.

This year is arguably the most important year for South Africa since apartheid was finally vanquished in 1994. President Jacob Zuma himself said as much only a few weeks ago.

I believe that 2010 is a crucial year not only for South Africa, but for us all – a year in which we set the course for the future.

We have just had to face the toughest economic and financial crisis – the most severe global economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1929.

We are still left struggling with the consequences – in Africa, Europe, all over the world.

The public finances of nearly all OECD countries have found themselves in troubled waters, and here in Africa the crisis has made a deep dent in the most consistent economic upturn in the continent’s history.

I can well imagine that you of all people, as representatives of private business, must be feeling the pinch and would have your own stories to tell.

However, I can also say that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can feel it in Germany, in the EU, but here in Africa too.

A few days ago at an economic forum in Nairobi, the IMF Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, stressed that the year 2010 would see a return to growth in Africa too. “Africa is back” is how he put it.

“Africa is back” – at first this may seem a rather strange notion to many observers in Germany and Europe. We perceive the African continent all too often as a continent of conflicts, crises and catastrophes.

However, I know not only from my discussions in the United Republic of Tanzania and today in Pretoria, but also from early trips, that nothing could be more false than this negative image of Africa. Sometimes, I admit, one has to dig a little deeper to see the potential and unearth new opportunities.

However, if we take the trouble, there is no limit to what we can discover and achieve. Germany and South Africa – Europe and its neighbouring continent – have a wealth of values, interests and goals in common.

Let me give you a brief outline of three areas of cooperation that I consider to be of crucial importance for this year, but also well beyond 2010.

First, we need to come together both to address the most pressing challenges in security policy and draw attention to global issues.

South Africa is our strategic partner in Africa, which is especially true with regard to our efforts to build peace and security on the continent.

We are together promoting the development of rule-of-law structures in southern Sudan by means of a trilateral training programme for Sudanese judges and public prosecutors. Particularly in this critical phase for the Sudan, in which landmark decisions are to be made regarding the country’s future, we must not slacken our efforts to establish a minimum rule-of-law standard. Without peace and stability in the Sudan the development of the entire region is threatened.

Particularly when it comes to solving the crisis in Zimbabwe, South Africa is the key player and President Zuma is continually engaged personally in this process. Together we must play our part in ensuring that the intended power-sharing between the various political groups succeeds. We want a government in Zimbabwe that includes all political forces – a government that is not based on fear, intimidation and persecution but that respects human rights and the principles of the rule of law.

Germany and South Africa are also working closely together on developing a pan-African security architecture. South Africa is the driving force behind both the regional association SADC and the African Union.

Here Germany stands firmly by South Africa’s side – supporting, for instance, the African Union in developing a Peace Support Operations Centre in Addis Ababa and training Somali police officers in Ethiopia.

South Africa is also our strategic partner on the continent when it comes to major global issues. South Africa is a partner in the G20, where we consult closely on the most important issues relating to the international financial and economic system. We are also working together within the framework of international climate negotiations for an ambitious follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.

I am especially delighted that, in nominating Minister of Tourism – formerly Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism – Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa has proposed an outstanding candidate to lead the UN Climate Change Secretariat in my home town Bonn.

Let me turn now to another area of cooperation that is crucial for Germany and South Africa: economic development and economic cooperation.

South Africa is by far Germany’s most important economic partner in Africa: worldwide South Africa ranks seventh place among Germany’s non-European trading partners. At the same time Germany is South Africa’s second most important trading partner worldwide.

There are currently around 600 German companies in South Africa and together they have created a total of 90,000 jobs. The main focuses of German enterprise are car manufacture, chemicals, and mechanical and electrical engineering.

Why do I make a point of stating this? I do this because, particularly as a politician and Foreign Minister of liberal persuasion, I am firmly convinced that economic links, investment, trade and entrepreneurship are crucial for jobs, growth and prosperity.

However, economic exchange is also indeed crucial to the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations – and thus in our best national and European interests.

This applies even more in the age of globalization, where we can use our economic links to bring about a globalization of values as well. In this way globalization becomes a win-win situation for both sides, and not just economically.

As I see it, external economic promotion is therefore a key element in any foreign policy with an eye to the future. This applies even more to a country like Germany, where so much importance is attached to exports and to economic links as a whole.

Here I would like to thank you most sincerely for your contribution. I cannot praise highly enough the work of the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad: a total of 120 spread across 80 different countries. Not only do they open doors: they also build bridges.

They are ambassadors for our country and our economy. I especially welcome your commit­ment with regard to Corporate Social Responsibility. Social responsibility is not an alien concept to German businesses, at home or abroad; rather, it is part and parcel of a modern business philosophy that is in keeping with the times. This is the globalization of values in action.

I strongly encourage you to continue along this path. I’m sure your efforts will shine through, both in the quality of your products and, ultimately, in your balance sheets.

I also speak for my colleague Dirk Niebel, who is accompanying me on this Africa tour, when I say this. By the way, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first major trip to Africa in almost twenty years by a Federal Foreign Minister in conjunction with the Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

There is no place for institutional rivalry in the tasks that lie ahead. On the contrary, what we require is a seamless policy on Africa. This will also find its expression in the Federal Government’s strategy for Africa, which we are working on together.

This is especially true in the case of a partner country like South Africa, which has long since outgrown the classic label of developing country and is itself now a development aid provider.

This makes it all the more important that we reach agreement on specific areas where we share a common interest, for instance on energy and climate policy, climate technology, or vocational training. The intergovernmental negotiations which ended today, that focused on defining the priorities for our future work, set a most encouraging tone for our continuing cooperation in areas of relevance to the years to come.

Finally, I would like to address a third area of cooperation that is especially close to my heart and relevant here to our policy on Africa: cultural relations and education policy.

We live in the age of globalization. This is not an aspect we can choose to switch on or off at our convenience, but a fact of life that we have to come to terms with, for better or worse.

I believe globalization brings with it immense opportunities. Politically and economically, but also culturally. Where distances shrivel to nothing and communication knows no limits, there the principles of cultural understanding can flourish – the principles by which we learn not only from one another but in each other’s best interests.

This is precisely the approach we need: active promotion of the German language, particu­larly in Africa; strengthening the Goethe-Institut; cooperating in education, science and sport. Having just visited the science park and innovation centre, I have been deeply impressed by how much South Africa in particular is investing in research and innovation, in the develop­ment of high-tech solutions.

Knowledge is the key resource of the 21st century. Education is the social issue of the age of globalization.

This is as true for Europe as it is for Africa. Enhanced cooperation in the fields of education, research and innovation is therefore exactly the right way to capitalize together on the oppor­tunities that globalization affords – and this applies to South Africa just as much as it does to Germany.

Africa is on the ascent. The continent’s population is young, motivated and hungry for education.

A few weeks ago, the American publication Newsweek was talking about the possibility of Africa becoming the new Asia.

With its increasing buying power, a new middle class is emerging that is bolstering domestic demand. A middle class whose motivation and zeal ensure that more and more international companies are discovering Africa as a location for investment. And finally, a middle class that wants political participation and upholds the values of democracy and the rule of law.

We want to strengthen these positive forces on the African continent: we want to support Africa in its ascent – with policies that favour partnership in the pursuit of peace and stability, in the pursuit of economic development and cultural understanding.

It is 62 days to kick-off. South Africa is to host this year’s FIFA World Cup. The enthusiasm is already palpable. I am certain that this first FIFA World Cup on African soil will be a mega event – a unique opportunity for the country, indeed for the whole continent.

Let us use this mood of optimism to promote a new image of the African continent – one that moves far beyond the old doom and gloom or an all too naive African romanticism.

We need a realistic image of Africa, one that recognizes the opportunities as well as the challenges that lie ahead. If we can succeed in this, then together we can reach the right decisions, so that 2010 becomes not just the “first post-crisis year”, but a year when we all make the ascent together.

Thank you very much.

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