Foreign Office “Africa Concept”: Universal Values, Competing Interests

German chancellor Angela Merkel‘s focus was on trade, not on aid, during her visits to Kenya, Angola and Nigeria this week, Deutsche Welle reported on Friday. Sales of eight patrol boats to Angola had been a bone of contention in Germany’s federal parliament, and a new “Africa Concept”, published by the foreign office (or foreign ministry) last month, had been put into question by aid organizations for putting trade before aid.

A school in Wuga, German East Africa, between 1906 and 1918

One of the older concepts - school in Wuga, German East Africa, photo between 1906 and 1918 (Wikimedia Commons / Bundesarchiv, click on picture for source)

Foreign Office “Africa Concept”

The following are keywords or -lines from the German foreign office’s Africa Concept, published a month ago. The page numbers refer to the digital pages (per mouseclick), not to the page numbers on the hardcopy leaflet. The first link (page 3, “Germany’s Africa policy is based…”) applies for all following pages, too. The full text behind the link is in German.

  • page 5: partnership on equal footing
  • page 6: our partners, first and foremost, are those who share these values.
  • page 7: good governance.
  • page 7: “Reduction of tariffal and non-tariffal trade barriers and measures which distort trade is significant to carry Africa’s development potential into effect. […] The federal government therefore supports Africa’s efforts for regional economic integration and the WTO negotiations in the Doha-Round framework. […] Germany supports the further opening of European markets for African products.”
  • page 8: German dependence on natural resources: coltan, wolframite, platinum, oil, gas, sources of renewable energy.
  • page 10: African Peace and Security Architecture (AU), conflict prevention and conflict resolution.
  • page 13: good governance, democracy, separation of powers, open societies.
  • page 14: “Learning by Ear”, Deutsche Welle, in cooperation with UNESCO.
  • page 15: good foundations for sustainable growth. G 6%, inflation usually one-digit.
  • page 16: income disparities.
  • page 16: 800 mn Euros in support of sustainable development, private sector as partners for Germany’s exporters, export credit guarantees, and agreements on the protection of investment.
  • page 17: microfinance.
  • page 19: climate protection, bio-diversity.
  • page 21: crude oil imports particularly from Nigeria and Algeria; 18 per cent in Germany’s imports are from Africa.
  • page 22: making energy usable within Africa – power plants and grids.
  • page 24: Germany as Africa’s third-largest partner for development. Funding for development cooperation to be increased to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2015.
  • page 25: health and water conservancy.
  • page 26: elementary education, further education, R&D, university cooperation, vocational training.
  • page 29: the 2007 EU strategy.
  • pages 27 – 30: United Nations / G8 / G20 framework.
  • page 31: measuring achievements and efficiency.

While Martin Wansleben of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce expressed hope that chancellor Merkel would promote free access to African natural resources – those to which Chinese companies were seeking exclusive access -, VENRO, an NGO alliance, criticized the Africa Concept for putting trade first, rather than overcoming poverty and hunger.

All the same, we welcome the first-time compilation of an inter-departmental concept by the federal government. This provides an opportunity for a concerted, development-promoting policy. We also welcome that the concept sets out from the continent’s potentials, rather than remains stuck with the descriptions of civil wars, corruption, and hunger. Still, [Africa’s] reality is at times euphemized.

VENRO’s Ulrich Post also saw potential and existing competing interests within the concept, when it comes to securing energy or natural-resources supplies.

Welthungerhilfe secretary general Wolfgang Jamann pointed out that market protectionism can make sense, during certain stages of trade development. In that light, too, trade was over-emphasized vs development, according to critics.

Neues Deutschland, formerly East Germany’s government mouthpiece, pointed to exploitation of African fishing grounds by EU trawlers, and European agricultural exports which were destroying the livelihoods of African farmers. Sustainable development in Africa would remain impossible under such circumstances, despite the concept’s suggestions to the contrary.

Oil was an obvious factor in chancellor Merkel’s visit to Angola and Nigeria, but in Kenya, too: a port on the Kenyan island of Lamu is likely to be a safer port for Southern Sudanese oil exports than North Sudan’s Port Sudan, given that the two Sudanese states’ relationship isn’t exactly friendly these days, writes Manfred Bleskin, in an editorial for N-TV television.

While both N-TV and the New York Times referred to a Chinese role in the port’s construction, or to Chinese backing, neither suggests that the port will be for exclusive Chinese use. The relevant Chinese companies are now looking into the place’s potential to ship South Sudanese oil – against cultural, societal, or environmental odds.

German importers may wish to make use of Port Lamu, anyway.

____________

Related
Manmohan Singh: Address to Ethiopian Parliament, Facebook, May 26, 2011
Horst Köhler: Full of Trade, May 27, 2010
Africa, where the Worlds meet, March 8, 2010
Is AGOA Good Enough, August 5, 2009
Kofi Owusu and the German Keyboard, June 20, 2009

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