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"Africa – A Continent of Opportunity"

26.04.2013 - Interview

Article by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the occasion of his trip to Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique. Published in the Pretoria News on 26 April 2013.

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Germany has always been committed to Africa and continues to be so. Today Africa is becoming a more and more dynamic continent of growing opportunities. African partners are increasingly influencing the destiny not only of their continent, but their voice can be heard on all global issues. We welcome and support Africa’s move to the centre stage of world politics and are reaching out to our African friends and partners to shape this process for the benefit of all.

My current visit takes me to Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique. Together with my South African counterpart, Her Excellency Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, I will work to further intensify our broad, deep and mutually beneficial partnership, which is of strategic importance to our foreign policy. Last year in Berlin, the German-South African Binational Commission (founded by President Mandela and Chancellor Kohl in 1996) agreed on an ambitious and highly comprehensive cooperation programme in the areas of economics, development, education, culture, labour as well as science and technology. On this occasion we also established a working group on foreign and security policy aimed at further harmonizing our positions in world politics and complementing our regular foreign-policy consultations.

My arrival in South Africa coincides with Freedom Day celebrations. The motto “Mobilizing Society towards Consolidating our Democracy and Freedom” seems perfect to me. Celebrating freedom, democracy, human rights, peace and unity is an endeavour which Germany and the European Union unreservedly support. South Africa has struggled long and hard to attain its freedom, reminding us that freedom can never be taken for granted and that truth and reconciliation may finally prevail over prejudice and revenge, not only at a national but also at an international level.

Europe has been a success story for decades, overcoming the tragedies of our history within the course of two generations. Germany has benefited immensely from European integration. The current debt crisis is a serious challenge, but we have made enormous progress over the last few years. With a policy mix focusing on fiscal discipline on the one hand and boosting competitiveness and growth on the other, we are laying the foundations for Europe’s economic future. We are looking forward to the next EU-South Africa summit in Soweto in July.

South Africa and the countries in the region are also pursuing closer cooperation and integration. Germany and the European Union are supporting these endeavours through substantial contributions to the African Union, SADC and other regional organizations. We want Africa to succeed in its ambition to effectively address its challenges and to develop efficient conflict prevention and conflict management tools on the continent.

Germany welcomes South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030 as a blueprint for ensuring growth and prosperity for all South Africans. It vigorously addresses the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The private sector will be crucial in helping South Africa to achieve its ambitions. Germans know from their own experience that economic freedom and political freedom are two sides of the same coin. Almost 25 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the two halves of our country have grown together and divisions in society have largely been bridged.

South Africa is Germany’s most important economic partner on the continent. Last year, our bilateral trade totalled approximately €14 billion. More than 600 German companies provide over 90,000 jobs in South Africa. Market leaders in Germany such as BMW, Mercedes, Siemens and Volkswagen play an important role in the South African economy, but it is small and medium-sized enterprises in particular – the “German Mittelstand” – which foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

Science and technology are central factors when it comes to empowering Africa as the continent of opportunities. The German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013 is paving the way for intensive cooperation in science and research over the next decade. Over 100 projects have been implemented, building on the already very close cooperation we enjoy in these fields of crucial importance to our future.

Protecting the environment while at the same time helping business to thrive is very important. I am very glad that South Africa is pressing ahead in the area of green technology. Germany is standing by South Africa in this effort, as German companies are among the leading developers and manufacturers in this field.

Education and training are also an important prerequisite for sustainable economic success. As a country with limited natural resources, Germany is well aware of this fact. Together with the South African government, we are looking into ways to promote vocational training and knowledge transfer to South Africa.

Africa’s growing role in international politics is crucial. “African solutions to African challenges” is a programme to which Germany fully subscribes. The new Chair of the African Union Commission, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, has emphatically taken this message on board. South African soldiers have been deployed on the continent to ensure stability and peace in several United Nations peacekeeping and peace-enforcing missions. I salute their valour and their selflessness. To the families who lost loved ones in the recent attacks in the Central African Republic I convey my sincere sympathies.

For the first time ever, a BRICS Summit was held on the African continent last month. South Africa is to be commended for hosting this important diplomatic event. I am sure that BRICS will be a positive motor for development in Africa and beyond. Further economic integration of the BRICS countries is in German interests as well. It would be one of the true benefits of globalization.

Germany and South Africa enjoy a trust-based and broad partnership in trade, science and culture, as well as on international and foreign-policy issues. I am confident that many more opportunities will arise for both of our countries in the years to come.

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