Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the opening of the German-Angolan Economic Forum in Luanda

26.03.2014 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

My dear colleague Abraão Gourgel,

Thank you for your welcome. Thank you too for your justifiably self-confident presentation of the Angolan economy and also for voicing clear expectations of Germany and German companies.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Members of parliament,
Government representatives,
Representatives of the business community in Angola and Germany,
Honoured guests,

I think I speak for every member of my delegation when I say how happy we are to be here in Luanda today. This is the third day of an exciting and thrilling trip which has taken us to Ethiopia, Tanzania and now on here to Angola.

On every leg of the trip one thing has become clear: relations between Germany and Africa are close and multifaceted. These relations stretch back a long way and have been chequered: we have had to talk about darker phases during this trip too.

Above all, however, they are relations for the future!

There is tremendous dynamism and there are huge opportunities for our cooperation. In the course of our trip that has become clearer to me than ever before. And so that’s why it’s up to us, when we go back home, not only to tell everyone in Germany and Europe how many opportunities this relationship affords, but also to encourage German companies to look more towards Angola and go in for investment here.

In saying that relations between Angola and Germany are relations for the future, I’m talking about many things: education, culture, shared interests – when it comes to peacekeeping, for example. But I am of course also talking about our economic relations. And it’s those we’re concentrating on today here at the German-Angolan Economic Forum. I would like to join with you, Minister Abraão Gourgel, in extending a warm welcome to everyone.

Our economic relations have a very long tradition. Around 100 years ago, German families came to farm here in Angola. Even now, German agriculture still enjoys a good reputation here. And I hope that’s not the only thing from Germany that has a good reputation!

Looking back over the past couple of days, I’d like to tell you that we were talking yesterday in Tanzania about a ship that has been sailing on Lake Tanganyika for 100 years. It was built in northern Germany.

Also, exactly 100 years ago, German engineers built a railway line from Dar es Salaam right across the country. It’s still in use today.

I’m afraid, my dear colleague, that I can’t guarantee you that every German product will last for 100 years...

But you know that sustainability and quality are the philosophy of German business.

Perhaps we cannot always compete with others’ prices, but we can definitely compete when it comes to quality and sustainability. The many people who know that are the reason why our exports are so successful worldwide.

Looking at the figures today, we cannot really be content to give ourselves a pat on the back. We’re glad that 20 German firms are represented in Angola. But we have to say that investment of 100 million euros a year is just a beginning!

Given the many opportunities, I’m sure it’s possible to kindle the interest of a great many more German companies in investing here in Angola. That’s what we’ll be looking to do in the next few years. To that end, we need you, the business representatives here tonight, to spread the word in Germany about your experiences here in Angola.

We have a business delegation here with us today and you were kind enough, Minister, to welcome them just now before the conference. You met some people who have been active here in Angola for a long time, but also some who are keen to see the dynamism in your country, to sound out Angola’s interests, to look for new markets and sectors and who, once they’re back in Germany, will be considering whether it’s worth investing in Angola or not. I am convinced that this Economic Forum might help one or the other of them to decide to make the move to Angola.

In any case, I am pleased that together we are working to create a foundation from which our economic relations can grow. Our Governments should help wherever possible, for instance with the German-Angolan Binational Commission, which has brought policymakers and the business community together regularly since 2012.

I don’t want to deliver a lengthy speech. Rather, I’d like to mention a few ideas that will probably crop up a lot in the discussions shortly.

Firstly, our economic cooperation is in many areas in the early stages.

We are taking a very careful look – as we Germans are wont to – and we greatly respect what has been achieved here in Angola since the end of the civil war. Over the past ten years, Angola’s economy has experienced greater growth than any other economy in the world. Looking out of my hotel room window, I can see cranes everywhere. Before I set off on this trip, a young member of staff at our Embassy here wrote to me: “I have only been in Luanda for a year and a half, but already the city looks completely different from when I arrived.”

These rapid changes bring with them two kinds of pioneering work:

First, an economy that is experiencing such a huge boom isn’t developing in stages, but in leaps and bounds, making progress that takes decades in other countries. So the basic infrastructure – from roads and power grids to waste disposal systems – now has to be put in place to ensure that this dynamic growth can be maintained.

These are fields in which Germany has a lot of expertise. Think of energy supplies, for example. Today only 40% of people in Angola have access to electricity, the vast majority of them in the capital. That state of affairs needs to and will quickly change.

German companies are helping, with the three hydroelectric power stations in Cambambe and Laúca, for instance. Just to give you an idea of the dimension of the project: when Laúca hydroelectric power plant goes into operation as planned by 2017, it will generate more energy than Angola’s entire current electricity production.

And German engineers are not only installing their technologies there; they are also training Angolan workers and passing on their know-how. This will have a positive long-term impact in terms of the structures and skilled young workforce the country needs.

But there’s pioneering work going on in the other direction too: a dynamic economy like that of Angola and other African countries produces innovations which go many steps further and perhaps even skip over stages that countries with slow growth and negative demographic developments struggle to reach.

This means that Africa is today producing innovations which will be groundbreaking for markets across the world. German companies should not miss this dynamism, this moment to help develop these innovations.

In saying this, I’m thinking, for example of mobile phone technology. In Africa 600 million people have mobile phones, believe it or not [and there’s one of them ringing now]! Mobile phones are often the way people keep in touch where there’s a lack of conventional infrastructure. So a huge number of clever apps are being developed for communication, information-sharing, shopping, payments and long-distance medical diagnosis. This can’t take the place of doctors or hospitals, but it might make the journey there shorter.

Secondly, sustainable growth has to be broad-based growth, as you said in your speech, Minister. Growth can only be sustainable if it derives from more than just a wealth of natural resources. That’s why, as you said a moment ago, Minister, you are undertaking your ambitious project of diversification.

It is a difficult project, precisely because your country does have such a wealth of natural resources. We Germans, having no more than a bit of coal in the ground, have always been forced to diversify. In a country which could probably live for a long time yet from its resources, it is all the more difficult to convince the population, business community and policymakers that the economic basis has to be made, much broader 20 or 30 years in advance.

German companies can help drive this diversification because, as you know, Germany’s export-based industry supplies equipment to the whole world. I am particularly pleased that there is one area in which we have been able to make some progress in recent years through political negotiations: aviation. Just last week an important door opened. Here in Luanda our two countries concluded a new air transport agreement – and additional direct flights will be going into operation at once.

Germany wants to provide political support for this broad-based, sustainable growth in Angola. How that might work can be seen from another venture, the KAZA project. With over 20 national parks in 5 countries, this will be the largest nature conservation area in the world.

Germany is providing financial support for the project, and more besides. Nature conservation areas do not make themselves, especially not in regions which have seen prolonged fighting. That’s why we are also helping to clear landmines, those relics of the civil war which pose such a danger in many parts of Angola to this day.

KAZA is a key project in many respects. It involves water management, protecting biodiversity and animal welfare. But it is also about tourism in Angola, a sector which is to become a solid foundation for the country, with the Government pitching its future share of GNP at 3%. Thanks to KAZA, tourists will be able to travel without restriction around the national parks of the five countries. That will be a considerable boon for the tourist sector in all five countries, including here in Angola.

Last but not least, KAZA is a model project for regional cooperation. I say this very cautiously, because I know how many obstacles there still are to functioning regional cooperation here in this region. That is why we respect the way in which your country, Angola, has repeatedly committed itself to cooperation around the Great Lakes region. We saw in the newspapers this morning how, just yesterday, you gathered the Presidents of the countries concerned here in Luanda to discuss among other things the problems that exist between individual countries. We are a long way away from models like the European Union. That will take years, decades. But then it took us that long as well! However, to get things started you need a nucleus, a beginning, and you need a vision. Because when you are in a position to formulate common goals, you often find you’re also in a position to move the obstacles out of the way.

Thirdly – and this is the last aspect I want to touch on – our experience in Germany is that sustainable economic growth means growth that is also broad-based in social terms.

Not far from here, right outside the hotel, there’s a large MPLA poster on a wall that says “Grow more in order to distribute better”.

We in Germany agree with that principle. We know that there is something to distribute only when the economy is strong.

However, from the experience of our history and as a Social Democrat, I would like to add this: the principle also applies the other way round!

Yes, there is something to distribute only when the economy is strong. But: the economy can only grow if conditions are good for its people – if they have education, rights, a welfare safety net, and if they know the state they live in can be relied upon. That is why I say growth and social justice, growth and reliable administration, growth and a reliable justice system – all go together. They go hand in hand.

I was pleased to hear you speak, Minister, of the need to reduce bureaucracy and undertake reform of the judiciary. This is all the right approach to create the kind of economy more and more people from abroad will want to invest in.

From colleague to colleague, let me say that we Europeans know from our own painful history how tremendously valuable peace is, peace that your country has now known for over 10 years. Not least for that reason do we say that social cohesion, widespread opportunities and a state which citizens and indeed companies can rely on are the prerequisites for maintaining Angola’s precious, hard won peace.

I am pleased that you are committed to this goal. I am quite sure that we will get German companies interested in doing business in and with Angola, and together we will work to develop the conditions for investment in both our countries so that when we meet for our next Economic Forum we will be able to give ourselves a proud pat on the back.

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