German government embarks on playing bigger role in Africa

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Newscast Media BERLIN—In the international media, Africa is more present than ever.
This week, the German government laid out its new Africa policy. Yet not much has
really changed, writes Claus Stäcker.

German Chancellor Merkel called it the “continent of opportunities”. The gap between
Africa and Europe is growing smaller, noted the foreign ministry. Even the media who
usually only report on African ferry disasters, abductions and mass killings, are
suddenly interested in African development and military presence.

Africa has rarely been so visible to the German public. Yet, recent events in Nigeria,
the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Mali, have once again highlighted the
risks and old stereotypes, and not the opportunities. Government spokesperson
Steffen Seibert commented:

“The hotspots of the continent, the catastrophes and the crises are often the focus
of the media reports. The strong economic growth in many African countries is hardly
reported. The African policy guidelines of the federal government take all of these
topics into account.”

The areas of focus are not new: more self-reliance, good governance and
accountability, democratization and education. Yet they are taking Germany’s policies
one step further. Previous governments also placed their hopes in sustainable
economic development, which would serve the wider public. New approaches might
be taken, by engaging Africans in a stronger dialogue and cooperating with them as
equal partners.

In the past, Africans were often sidelined on the global playing-field. High-ranking
posts in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the United Nations
were often decided without consulting African countries. Their voices were also left
unheard in the creation of the G20 and when negotiating the terms of the European
Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement.

The German-African Business Association, which represents over 600 firms, viewed
the new guidelines as a step in the right direction. The investors were glad to hear
that the German government had acknowledged the positive changes in Africa. They
especially welcomed the introduction of the so called Hermes Cover, which protects
German companies if their trade partners fail to pay their debts.

France has also been pushing for a German alliance to curb the conflict in areas like
the Central Africa Republic, which is on the verge of turning into a genocide. The
majority of the German public are against foreign military interventions. The costly
operation in Afghanistan was enough to make them wary of any further engagements.
A survey, carried out by the Körber Foundation, showed that six out of ten Germans
were against further military operations. Germany’s Minister for Development Gert
Müller did his best to calms his colleagues in the government:

“Africa is not only a partner in trade but also in politics. That’s what we do in the UN.
In terms of security, we want to encourage the African Union to solve their conflicts

Müller however ruled out the possibility of sending fighting troops to any African
conflict areas.

Source: Deutsche Welle