Welcome

Address by State Secretary Michaelis on the occasion of African Union Day 2019 

29.05.2019 - Speech

Today we are celebrating Africa Day as the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. The OAU, from which today’s AU grew, thus turns 56 today. From my own experience, I am happy to say that this is the prime of life! Today is rightfully a day of joy and pride. We are happy to stand together with our African partners on the occasion of this auspicious event and I feel honoured to have been invited to speak to you today.

The African Union is an incredible achievement. We sometimes wonder how to keep the mere 28 countries together that form the AU’s “older sister”, the European Union. And it is no secret that sometimes we fail –just look at Brexit. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is to keep the AU together! 

Mais dans quelle langue félicite-t-on une Union de 55 pays avec un bon milliard d’habitants parlant plus de 2000 langues et dialectes ? L’anglais, le français et le swahili ne sont que trois des nombreuses options – ce qu’illustre la traduction simultanée de mon discours en français sur l’écran derrière moi. De plus, en tant qu’Européen, je sais quel “bourbier” peut être la question de langue ! Dans l’intérêt de tous, permettez-moi de poursuivre en anglais. 

So on behalf of the German Government, I congratulate you on the 56th anniversary of the African Union! And given the time and place where we are celebrating, I would like to add “Ramadan Kareem” to our Egyptian hosts, to the representative of the AU, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Amani Abou-Zeid and to all of us no matter our religion or language. I feel honoured to be here with you, Ambassador Abdelatty, to break the fast. 

A word on our hosts. Egypt holds the Presidency of the African Union this year. Its Presidency forms part of a long tradition of active Egyptian involvement in building and shaping this Union. Egypt has played a part in its progress and achievements from the start, for example in the fight against colonialism and apartheid and in both the political and economic fields. Africa and Europe share historical ties and vital interests, and Egypt is a particularly powerful symbol of this joint heritage, reaching back over millennia. 

My thanks also go to the Dean of the African Group, Ambassador Jean-Marc Mpay, and to all African Ambassadors who contributed to this event. My colleagues and I at the Federal Foreign Office have come to greatly appreciate the African Group of Ambassadors in Berlin. You are willing to engage and to further our mutual interests. By teaming up, you make sure that your continent is well represented on the Berlin stage. 

This open exchange between African and German stakeholders is important in order to develop a shared vision of where we want to go and how we want to address our common challenges, such as combating climate change or achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

To this end, the AU has drafted its Agenda 2063, which lays out its vision for (and I quote) “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

I am pleased to say that Germany has done some homework as well. The Federal Government adopted its Africa Policy Guidelines just two months ago. This document builds on the ideas of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 and incorporates them into the framework of Germany’s Africa policy. 

Let me go into greater detail here. In its Africa Policy Guidelines, the Federal Government defined five overarching priorities for the first time:
•    We will promote peace, security and stability.
•    We are putting sustainable economic development, private investment, trade and employment opportunities at the core of our efforts. 
•    Working closely with our African partners, we aim to manage and shape migration, tackle the causes of refugee movements and provide support to refugees.
•    We are working with Africa on strengthening the rules-based global order, as we know that multilateralism is as high on your agenda as it is on ours. 
•    Finally, we recognise the civil-society partnerships that have evolved between Germany and African countries as an invaluable asset for our relations. 

In these guidelines, we acknowledge the growing importance of Africa in German foreign policy. There are an ever-increasing number of potential partnerships between Germany and Africa at all levels. We want to intensify these partnerships for the benefit of both sides. The many high-level visits to both Africa and Berlin have underlined this fact. Just look at the Chancellor’s travel itineraries in the past year, and you will see how high Africa is on our agenda!

So the guidelines are important, but in the end they are just a piece of paper. What is actually happening on the ground? Let me give you a few examples of our current engagement: 
•    In the field of economic cooperation, we remain committed to the Partnership with Africa initiated during our G20 Presidency under the patronage of the Federal Chancellor with the Compacts with Africa and the reform partnerships. We also offer support as regards establishing an African Continental Free Trade Area. We congratulate you on the entry into force of the agreement by the end of this month. We will ensure continuity and progress on both issues.
•    In international cooperation, we welcome the new momentum in EU-Africa-relations. The AU-EU Summit in Abidjan in 2017 and the negotiations on a post-Cotonou agreement are good examples of this. Germany will remain involved and work towards enhanced EU-AU partnership during its EU Presidency in the second half of 2020.
•    As regards regional matters, promoting regional integration and security is evidently part of our DNA in both the EU and the AU. At the request of our African partners and embedded in international efforts, Germany is contributing to peacekeeping missions on the African continent. Our biggest contingent abroad is stationed in Mali, and we are also helping to stabilise other parts of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. With former President Köhler, the UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, we have managed to bring all sides to one table. We greatly regret that he is leaving!

Summing up, it is no understatement to say that the ties between Germany and the AU and its member states have never been more productive, more promising or more beneficial to us all. Let’s keep it that way!
Thank you.

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