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Fifty years ago, the world watched Africa with fascination as seventeen countries declared their independence in 1960. It was the beginning of the end of European colonization. It was the beginning of the self-determination and awakening of an entire continent.
For these reasons, the year 1960 is referred to as the “Year of Africa”. 2010 has the potential to become a new “Year of Africa”. The FIFA World Cup will kick off in Johannesburg just three days from now. This will be the first time this global event has ever been hosted on the African continent. It is sure to shape the world’s view of Africa as a whole for years to come. We know this from experience. For us, the summer of 2006 was extremely beneficial for Germany’s image abroad. Four years ago in Germany we celebrated our “summer fairy tale”. As winter is just beginning in the southern hemisphere, I hope South Africa will have “winter fairy tale”.
After the World Cup, the world will view Africa differently than it ever has before.
Four years ago the whole world was surprised by Germany. The Germans could actually be really friendly! We were able to prove many of the clichés false. Even before the World Cup the Germans were more relaxed, funny, tolerant, peaceful and hospitable than many people wanted to believe. But it was the World Cup that helped people who had never been to Germany understand this.
For South Africa and for the entire continent the World Cup is a huge opportunity. It is a chance to dispel an image of Africa that is burdened with prejudices. This image of Africa is, at best, a distorted picture. Africa is much more than poverty, crises and disasters. Many African economies are growing nearly as quickly as their Asian counterparts. Africa is on the rise, politically and economically, as I was able to see for myself during my trip to Tanzania, South Africa and Djibouti at the beginning of April.
I don’t want to play down Africa’s problems – there is certainly a lot of catching up to do. There are still many conflicts and problems to be resolved. But when I look at Africa, I see above all major opportunities and incredible potential.
We need a fresh perspective on Africa. We need a perspective that acknowledges the efforts and successes of individual countries. A perspective that looks closely at which states violate human rights and which states protect them. A modern view of Africa sees countries that are addressing the challenges their continent is facing. Increasingly, African solutions are being found for African problems.
The foundation for this was laid on Africa Day, which we are commemorating today, a bit belatedly. On 25 May 1963, 32 independent African states signed the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
This was a huge step for the young nations of Africa. Today the organization that succeeded the OAU, the African Union (AU), is a key partner for the European Union in Africa.
For instance, Germany is assisting the African Union in building an operations centre in Addis Ababa and in training Somali police officers in Ethiopia. We also support the African Union’s Border Programme. The goal is to mediate border disputes before they escalate into conflicts. Along with the United Nations, we support the efforts to resolve the conflicts in Sudan. Peace and security in Africa will remain a foreign policy priority for Germany.
In business, too, we would like to have more interaction. Economic exchange is indispensable for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations. As a member of the Free Democratic Party, I believe that close economic ties, investment, trade and entrepreneurship are key. They create jobs, growth and prosperity here in Germany as well as in Africa. The growth in many African countries is impressive. A new middle class is gradually emerging and its growing purchasing power bolsters domestic demand. An increasing number of international companies are discovering Africa’s potential as an investment location. We support these positive developments. We want Africa to rise and prosper. Peace and stability, economic development and cultural understanding for Africa are goals of our foreign policy.