Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the German-African Business Association’s fifth German-African Business Day
State Secretary Frølich Holte,
Members and guests of the German-African Business Association,
Ladies and gentlemen,
When people in Germany and Europe speak about Africa these days, the talk is of disembarkation platforms, repatriation agreements or the question of where to send the boats overflowing with African refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean. In such discussions, some may also say that the reasons why people flee must finally be tackled more effectively. Far too often, unfortunately, this is as far as the interest in our neighbouring continent goes.
I mean it when I say that this view of Africa is naturally not an accurate reflection of reality. And it is not in Africa’s or indeed in Europe’s interests.
One of my first trips abroad as Foreign Minister took me to Ethiopia, headquarters of the African Union, and Tanzania. I purposely chose to go there in order to underline that our goal is to establish a new partnership between Europe and Africa.
In fact, this tallies with the expectations of all my African interlocutors, who want a genuine partnership from Europe and do not wish to be perceived merely as the recipients of development aid or the starting point for migration flows.
In saying this, my aim is not to downplay the dimension of refugee and migration issues in relations between Europe and Africa in any way. That would certainly be presumptuous in view of the population growth ahead of Africa in the coming decades. And one does not need a crystal ball to predict that so long as an African earns a mere twenty-second of a European salary, migration will continue to be an issue for us despite all the dangers on the journey to Europe.
However, migration is not an isolated problem, but rather a symptom of the political, economic, demographic, social and societal circumstances.
And if we restrict our relations with Africa to the topics of refugees and migration, there is a risk that we will lose sight of the great opportunities of a broader partnership between Africa and Europe.
I know that I am preaching to the converted here, as the German-African Business Association has supported German companies in their work in our neighbouring continent for many decades and thus stands for the shared interest in closer cooperation.
And digital transformation, the main topic of this German-African Business Day, is an ideal area for such collaboration.
There are real African success stories in this sector, such as the mobile payment solutions developed in Kenya and Rwanda’s plans to use intelligent car-sharing to boost urban mobility. The aim of such ideas is no longer to catch up with other economies’ level of industrial development. In fact, these ideas provide an opportunity to bypass entire developmental levels and perhaps even to overtake established economies in some sectors by making use of African innovations.
Germany can provide support here as a partner – and not merely as a donor. After all, one thing is completely clear – Africa will not achieve sustained growth through transfer payments alone. To this end, we need more entrepreneurship in Africa itself and from abroad.
German companies enjoy an excellent reputation internationally. They are rightfully regarded as responsible players that focus on sustainability and think in terms of generations rather than merely as far as the next quarterly profits. When German companies build up long-term trade relations or make long-term investments, they also share our way of doing business.
In concrete terms, this means
- providing apprenticeships and further training, often as part of the dual system of vocational training
- treating employees fairly
- and upholding environmental standards.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In this way, companies – your companies – play a crucial role in fostering Germany’s reputation, political strength and, above all, the trust placed in us.
Furthermore, you make an important contribution to sustainable development in the countries where you are active and thus also to fostering globalisation with a social dimension.
These are also priorities for the German Government, particularly as regards Africa. That is another reason why thinking has shifted in recent years to doing more to promote economic development in Africa. In 2017, the German G20 Presidency, working closely with the German-African Business Association, made Africa a new priority, reframed its policies on Africa and launched the Compacts with Africa.
This initiative is now firmly established on the G20 agenda and implementation has started.
The recent reduction of the national contributions required for official export credit guarantees of the Federal Republic of Germany in the cases of Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal and Rwanda was an important first step. The German-African Business Association had called for this reduction for a long time – and as you see, it pays to persevere!
We will also use development cooperation funding to promote public-private partnerships and to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to take out loans.
In addition, we want to expand the network of German Chambers of Commerce Abroad. And naturally, our Embassies provide support and advice in Africa as regards access to decision-makers and in-depth knowledge of the political and economic situation in the host country.
The Federal Foreign Office has increased its support for African students and universities and expanded its network of partner schools in Africa. Our aim is to enable young Africans to make better use of their potential. That is also important for development.
In view of demographics, with 60 percent of Africans currently aged under 25, anything else would be disastrous for Africa, as well as a catastrophe for us in Europe.
There has also been a change at European level. The EU’s policies on Africa now go far beyond development cooperation.
The EU and the African Union recently agreed a new security partnership.
And at the African Union-European Union Summit in Abidjan, the European Commission presented the EU’s new external investment plan aimed at triggering 44 billion euros for sustainable investment in Africa and the EU’s neighbouring countries.
The energy sector is one example of where cooperation plays a key role, as 620 million people in Africa still do not have electricity. A mobile phone or laptop can perhaps be charged elsewhere, but naturally this is not an option for larger-scale industrialisation. And yet the potential is enormous, particularly as regards renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.
That is why we are especially pleased that some German investments are currently planned in these sectors in particular.
Transparency, legal certainty and planning security are important for such investments. African decision-makers have this in their own hands. I can only encourage you, as better ratings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report and Transparency International’s corruption index speak louder than any number of glossy brochures.
Ladies and gentlemen,
All of you know more about the prerequisites of international business than I do. But economic growth is simply not possible without the prerequisite of peace and security.
Stability in Somalia also has a significant impact on Kenya’s economy. Nigeria is affected by the crises in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram. And the tensions of the civil war can still be felt in Côte d’Ivoire.
However, there are also grounds for optimism when one looks at Africa.
At the start of the year, Liberia had its first democratic handover of power in decades, in part thanks to the long-term endeavours by the international community. This was a milestone for democracy and stability following a terrible civil war.
In Ethiopia, a young Prime Minister is fostering reconciliation with the opposition and courageously reaching out to Eritrea, a long-standing arch enemy of the country.
And in the Gambia, which was under harsh and autocratic rule for decades, a combination of diplomacy and international pressure has led to a new democratic start.
A gratifying reason for this change is the greater willingness shown in recent years by the African Union and other African regional organisations not to turn a blind eye to conflicts, but instead to take joint action.
In this way, Africa is living up to the legacy of one of its greatest sons, Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 100 this month. As far back as 1998, he told his African colleagues that “Africa has a right and a duty to intervene to root out tyranny”.
I am delighted that Africa is making noticeable progress on the path to continental integration. And the transcontinental free trade area agreed at the African Union’s last Extraordinary Summit in Kigali would be a decisive step forward. Germany will continue to do all it can to support you on this path.
And we are also willing to be your partner when it comes to stabilising fragile states affected by conflict or civil war. Crisis management, post-conflict peacebuilding and prevention have been the key elements of German foreign policy for many years.
In Mali, civilian experts and police officers are helping to foster governance, while German UN peacekeeping forces are working with others to ensure a stable environment.
In Somalia, we are supporting the integration of former militia and helping to train members of the security forces.
And in many other countries, we are supporting policing, endeavouring to foster reconciliation through mediation and promoting regional cooperation, for example in the Sahel region and the Sudan.
When we join the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member at the start of 2019, we also want to liaise closely there with our African partners. We already started doing so a long time ago, including during visits to New York, where I have held in-depth talks with African UN Ambassadors. Here, too, there are high expectations of Germany – and they go far beyond development cooperation!
For example, we have already agreed to raise the issue of the close connection between climate change, fragility and security during our membership of the Security Council in the interests of African countries, as droughts, crop failures and water shortages have great potential to create conflicts and thus pose significant risks for the continent’s economic development.
Just as peace and security are prerequisites for economic growth and prosperity, economic development can help to prevent conflicts. This leads to the interesting question of how we can safeguard economic engagement in fragile states.
Why are others already investing in Somalia again?
What needs to happen so this would also be conceivable for more German companies once more?
Which countries offer opportunities and where are the risks too high?
All of these are topics we need to think about and to discuss with those who have experience on the ground.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the start of my speech, I talked about a new partnership between Europe and Africa.
I think this type of partnership is urgently needed, as the world around us is changing rapidly. Multilateralism, the rules-based global order and open trade are increasingly being called into question – including by unexpected quarters. The rift runs right through what one calls “the West¨. Moreover, nationalism and protectionism have been the trend for quite some time now in our democratic societies, too.
One thing is certain – isolation, tariffs or terminating agreements unilaterally affect Europeans and Africans in equal part. And in a world of ”my country first“, we all lose in the end.
Companies can wipe their competitors off the market. Humankind, however, can only survive as a whole together. Global prosperity is not a zero-sum game in this context either.
As neighbours, our fates are closely intertwined. That is another reason why Europe and Africa need a partnership of multilateralists – one that paves the way to new and sincere development opportunities for Africa and supports a fair and rules-based order at international level.
Europe and Africa should focus to a far greater extent and with far greater self-confidence on their shared interests in shaping globalisation. Together we represent more than half of the world’s countries! If we stand together, our voice will not be overheard.
An African proverb says: ”The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.“
We believe that now is the time for a new partnership between Africa and Europe. And I would be delighted if as many people as possible were interested in supporting this new partnership. All of you can play an important part in this.
Thank you very much!