Potential partners - and what connects us to them

Sub-Saharan Africa

The importance of Africa for German foreign policy has kept increasing in the past few years. It was German chancellor Angela Merkel who used the German G20 presidency in order to launch the Compact with Africa (CwA). The coalition agreement of the new German three-party coalition emphasizes: “The African countries and Europe have close historic ties. We intend to forge a close partnership with Africa at all levels in the future, both bilaterally and as part of a coherent EU-Africa strategy. We are expanding cooperation with the African Union as well as African regional organisations. Priorities of this cooperation are peace, security, prosperity, sustainable development, health, managing the impact of the climate crisis and strengthening multilateralism.“ The Covid crisis made tackling existing challenges even harder - given the enormous strain the crisis put on healthcare systems, economies and individual livelihoods. The fact is that the continent is undergoing major transformations. Part of this new reality is the geostrategic rise of China, Russia and Turkey that is upsetting traditional constellations on the continent.

LEARN MORE
Relevance
Status quo
Potential

The importance of Africa for German foreign policy has kept increasing in the past few years. It was German chancellor Angela Merkel who used the German G20 presidency in order to launch the Compact with Africa (CwA). The coalition agreement of the new German three-party coalition emphasizes: “The African countries and Europe have close historic ties. We intend to forge a close partnership with Africa at all levels in the future, both bilaterally and as part of a coherent EU-Africa strategy. We are expanding cooperation with the African Union as well as African regional organisations. Priorities of this cooperation are peace, security, prosperity, sustainable development, health, managing the impact of the climate crisis and strengthening multilateralism.“1  The Covid crisis made tackling existing challenges even harder – given the enormous strain the crisis put on healthcare systems, economies and individual livelihoods. The fact is that the continent is undergoing major transformations. Part of this new reality is the geostrategic rise of China, Russia and Turkey that is upsetting traditional constellations on the continent.

In order to identify potential partners, a differentiated perspective of the heterogeneous developments on the neighbouring continent is needed. However, certain trends can be discerned. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Sub-Saharan Africa includes 49 African nations. More than 1 billion people live in these countries, which are characterised by linguistic variety and rich traditions. The German Foundation for World Population forecasts that population figures are likely to double to more than 2.1 billion people by 2050. This means that the region has the highest population growth rate in the world. Moreover, the rapidly growing population in Sub-Saharan Africa is not only the youngest in the world, but there is also a sizable migration from rural to urban areas, which  are growing faster in this part of the world than anywhere else. This resource-rich region of the world is disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and suffers from the most civil wars and non-state conflicts worldwide. Depending on how the statistics are interpreted, many African countries are characterised as the poorest and least developed in the world – and yet almost half of African countries are now classified as middle-income countries. However, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are still a long way from collecting the often predicted “demographic dividend”. It is true that the growth rates of African economies were sometimes very high by global standards in the pre-Covid period. This did not, however, automatically mean inclusive growth that reaches the population. Drawing definite conclusions as to real growth is only possible if you take into account diverging, country-specific factors- such as demographic development, institutional stability and macroeconomic orientation. Currently, the negative impact of Covid, including the sometimes dramatic collateral damage caused by government efforts to control the disease, need to be taken into account. Based on heterogeneous contextual factors, wide differences can today be expected in the individual countries regarding development potential

1: Bundesregierung (2021): Mehr Fortschritt wagen. Bündnis für Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit und Nachhaltigkeit, 24.11.2021, S. 156 (https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/service/gesetzesvorhaben/koalitionsvertrag-2021-1990800).

The conceptual framework for German Africa policy is still based on the policy guidelines of the former federal government. . The new government is currently updating this policy based on the above-quoted coalition agreement. There will be no change, however, in the goal of achieving an in-depth partnership with Africa which includes the expectation that African partners are proactive and are prepared to assume responsibility. It remains to be seen, however, whether the new government will be more successful than the old in pursuing a coherent Africa policy that is coordinated among the federal ministries and embedded in the European and multilateral context. In the past, experienced stakeholders repeatedly criticised institutional and thematic fragmentation and called for greater rigour and strategic coordination. 

In the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and in the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU), respectively, Germany and the African countries committed themselves to a rules-based world order and to the multilateral system, with the United Nations (UN) as a central element. Internationally agreed goals and agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), serve as an essential yardstick. From a European perspective, fundamental values include respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including minority rights. Anchoring pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and solidarity in the normative structures of potential partner countries is therefore a crucial condition for a genuine partnership based on values.

The above-mentioned Compact with Africa (CwA) is a key element of bilateral German Africa policy. The initiative supports reform programmes to generate growth and jobs in the now twelve CwA partner countries of  Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt (in North Africa) and Senegal, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Ethiopia and Ruanda (in Sub-Saharan Africa) Several hundreds of millions of euros in development investment funds from the BMZ (AfricaConnect and AfricaGrow) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) (Africa Business Network), which were already approved in the last legislative term, are available to support private investment2. Through its special initiative on training and employment, the BMZ also provides additional funding for training and job partnerships, for example in the textile sector in Ghana. As part of the Marshall Plan with Africa, the BMZ facilitates so-called reform partnerships with CwA member countries. Democratic and constitutional reforms in the country are criteria for being selected. In Sub-Saharan Africa, reform partnerships currently exist with Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana,Senegal and Togo (in North Africa, Morocco and Tunisia are additional partner countries). 

The BMWK also funds instruments for building partnerships in the areas of digitalisation and innovation and for strongly supporting foreign trade. As part of providing risk coverage for exports and investments, the BMWK also plays a leading role in designing and granting state export credit guarantees for goods and services (Hermes Cover) as well as investment guarantees for German companies. These guarantees include special incentives for CwA countries.

Various instruments ofEuropean trade policy are available for promoting trade,such as trade agreements that are based on the principle of reciprocity (e.g. Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and unilateral generalised systems of preferences for tariff reductions (such as the “Everything But Arms“ initiative). Negotiations on EPAs in West Africa have so far led to agreements with Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and to a regional EPA awaiting ratification. Cameroon is the only Central African country to have ratified an EPA, whose specific arrangements are still under discussion. In eastern and southern Africa, there are EPAs with Mauritius, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Zimbabwe. An EPA has also been signed with the Southern African Development Community (SADC). A regional EPA with the East African Community (EAC) has only been ratified by Kenya so far. In order to make progress under the current process, negotiations with Kenya on an interim EPA started in February 2022. It needs to be pointed out, however, that Germany has not yet ratified any of the agreed EPAs. Some of these are in “provisional application“. In addition, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) entered into force in 2019, whose specific arrangements have not been finalised yet, however. Some customs tariffs and rules of origin still need to be negotiated. Notwithstanding, trade under already existing AfCFTA rules started on 1 January 2021.

Various instruments embedded in the internationally agreed SDGs and the Paris Agreement are available for resource conservation, mitigation and adaptation. The International Climate Initiative (ICI) is a central funding programme of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of Germany’s funding commitments to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This programme currently supports more than 90 projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the consequences of climate change, preserve natural carbon sinks and protect biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example in Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. Other BMU initiatives include the West and East African Alliance on Carbon Markets and Climate Finance, in which Tanzania, for example, participates, and the Partnership for Market Readiness and Implementation Programme for the introduction of carbon pricing instruments in South Africa. The BMWi also maintains an energy partnership with South Africa. Moreover, Africa is the priority continent of the BMZ’s involvement in the energy sector. An example of this commitment is the Green People’s Energy for Africa initiative for the development of a decentralised energy supply based on renewable energies. Programmes for expanding renewable energies are being implemented in Benin, Mozambique and Senegal, for example. At the EU-Africa summit, held in Brussels in February 2022, the EU heads of state and government already announced that, based on the European Green Deal, considerable additional funds will be made available for climate and energy initiatives in Africa.

Domestic crises, conflicts and terrorist activities in countries such as Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon and the African Great Lakes region, along with potential criminal threats from piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, for example, represent tremendous challenges for Africa, but also for Europe and other regions of the world. These challenges can only be resolved jointly. German foreign policy is anchored in the UN and the EU. The German Federal Armed Forces are an integral part of German security policy and are involved in various missions for security, stability and peace in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), which, after May 2022, will only be supported by the Federal Armed Forces in Niger and no longer in Mali and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the UNMISS mission in South Sudan. After the drawdown of the military deployment in Mali (due to two coups and the intervention of Russian Wagner mercenaries), Nigeria is the priority country in the German government’s 2016 Enable & Enhance Initiative (Ertüchtigungsinitiative). This initiative is implemented by the Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg) and the Federal Foreign Office (AA) and includes civil and military measures for crisis prevention, crisis management and post-crisis rehabilitation. For strengthening regional cooperation and fighting terrorism, human trafficking and people smuggling, Germany also supports the G5 Sahel Alliance, consisting of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. Together with other European countries and international organisations, Germany is part of the so-called Sahel Alliance for security, stabilisation, humanitarian aid and development cooperation. It was founded by Germany, France and the EU in 2017 to help improve coordination of the numerous initiatives in the region.

2: See https://www.bmz.de/de/mitmachen/wirtschaft/entwicklungsinvestitionsfonds-12346 (last accessed: 20 May 2022).

For now (in May 2022), it is hard to predict whether the change in direction, which was initiated by the former federal government and which charted the transition from classic development aid to development cooperation based on partnerships, will be continued.  Part of this approach has been to provide targeted support for the private sector, highlighting the role of entrepreneurship and the principle of self-reliance. This new approach has definitely been a big step forward for German-African cooperation.

Generating long-term success, however, will require more, at best: functioning state structures and reliable stakeholders who do not tolerate that development is obstructed by corruption, mismanagement and despotism and who recognise that good governance is a basic prerequisite for sustainable development. The fact that democracy, the rule of law and free enterprise are the best enablers of inclusive growth must not hide the fact that sometimes gradual steps towards this goal need to be accepted and supported. This should also be reflected more strongly in German foreign and development policy. Ghana, for example, is a very suitable partner, as a country with stable democratic conditions and a reform-oriented economic policy. The high number of abstentions and the high non-attendance of African states during the UN General Assembly vote on condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine (17 and 8, respectively, compared to 28 votes in favour) has shown very clearly that focusing more on African sensitivities than has happened in the past must be a political goal of the federal government and the EU.3 Especially in the emerging new geopolitical rivalry between states that are willing to stand up with us for a rules-based international order and states that seek to fundamentally change or even destroy this order, the way in which our position is supported by African states will be crucial. 

South Africa has the most intensive trade relations with Germany and has proven time and again to be a reliable partner. In order to expand trade relations, which are still relatively weak by global standards, and to initiate necessary economic transformation processes, it is essential to create incentive structures and an institutional framework (such as the formalisation of the large informal sector and the reduction of subsidies) and to promote principles such as solidarity and subsidiarity. 

There is already some innovation potential in many countries. Kenya, for example, boasts an export-oriented agricultural industry and a lively start-up scene. The M-Pesa mobile payment system developed in Kenya is now established in many African countries. The information and telecommunications industry is growing rapidly on the continent. The start-up scene is also booming in Ghana. In the long run, Sub-Saharan Africa may also develop into an important sales market – especially in view of the repercussions from the “Ukraine crisis“ and the resulting concerns about an overdependence on individual countries like Russia and China. In this context, more attention should be paid to demographic issues. In order to strengthen the resilience of African economies as a contribution to stability in the region, Germany should work at the European level for trade agreements with African countries, strengthen African regional organisations, such as ECOWAS, EAC and SADC, which are sometimes plagued by fragmentation and disagreements and continue to provide constructive support for implementation of the AfCFTA.

Nigeria, with its diplomatic and economic clout, as the home of ECOWAS headquarters and as one of the priority countries of the Enable & Enhance Initiative (Ertüchtigungsinitiative), is an important player and potential partner for containing the enormous security policy threats to the region and to Europe. Establishing and expanding state structures and the Enable & Enhance Initiative is key for strengthening the government’s and security stakeholders‘ effective and efficient presence and for boosting their capacity to act. Also Mali, Niger and the other Sahel states that are transit countries for migration from West Africa and are affected by Islamist terrorism and the existential impacts of climate change, are considered important partners for German foreign policy.

In addition, the special attention paid to climate protection, green transformation and sustainable energy supply at the European level offers Germany the opportunity for expanding partnerships in these areas. South Africa is considered an experienced partner in this respect, with whom a great deal of expertise has already been shared. Other potential partners include the DR Congo with its considerable biodiversity and Kenya, where the UN Environment Programme is based.

There are many options for linking up with each other both at the level of individual tools and at the institutional level. Germany has the opportunity to assert its position in the search for allies with whom partnerships can be strengthened and has the chance to keep fine-tuning the strategic focus of German Africa policy.

In addition, the special attention paid to climate protection, green transformation and sustainable energy supply at the European level offers Germany the opportunity for expanding partnerships in these areas. South Africa is considered an experienced partner in this respect, with whom a great deal of expertise has already been shared. Other potential partners include the DR Congo with its considerable biodiversity and Kenya, where the UN Environment Programme is based.

There are many options for linking up with each other both at the level of individual tools and at the institutional level. Germany has the opportunity to assert its position in the search for allies with whom partnerships can be strengthened and has the chance to keep fine-tuning the strategic focus of German Africa policy. 

Dr. Stefanie Brinkel has headed the KAS Regional Programme Political Dialogue West Africa (PDWA) since 1 September 2021. Previously, she was policy advisor for Central Africa, the initiative “One World no hunger” and climate in the KAS European and International Cooperation Division.

Dr. Stefan Friedrich is head of the department Sub-Saharan Africa in the division European and International Cooperation (Update May 2022). 

Last update: 20 May 2022

3: Vgl. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resolution_ES-11/1_der_UN-Generalversammlung (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.5.2022).

SHOW LESS

GHANA

as a partner for strengthening a values and rules-based world order

Despite its relatively small population of approximately 28 million inhabitants, Ghana is growing in relevance for Germany. This is evident not least of all from the fact that Ghana has been included in the Compact with Africa project since 2017, and became one of Germany’s reform partner countries in the same year. Ghana’s willingness to accept reforms in the economic and fiscal policy sector, along with its general conditions, which are relatively stable compared to many other Sub-Saharan African countries, made Ghana an interesting partner for the G20, and especially for Germany (as a reform partnership).

KENYA

as a partner for safeguarding our prosperity via free trade and innovation

Kenya is one of the most stable countries in East Africa and economically has an international focus. With consistently strong economic growth in the twelve years before the Covid crisis and a GDP of more than 100 billion US dollars (2020), Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa and is a growth engine for the entire region. The ports of Mombasa and Lamu as well as the airport in Nairobi, make Kenya an important hub for trade, finance and the transport of humanitarian aid in the region. Many international companies and organisations have chosen Kenya as the seat of their (East) Africa branches.

NIGER

as a partner for regulating global migration flows

The unstable security situation throughout the Sahel region reveals the weakness of state authorities in the region. Niger’s security forces are also struggling to exercise effective control of the country. Several terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram, regularly attack military bases and also civilians.

NIGERIA

as a partner for the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world

With a population of around 216 million, Nigeria is not only the most populous country in Africa, but it has also been the continent’s largest economy for some years now. The country is rich in oil and gas and is one of the largest oil exporters in the world.

SOUTH AFRICA

as a partner for the securing essential natural resources and protecting the climate

According to Federal Minister Müller, Africa is to become the “green continent of renewable energies”. South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, is pursuing ambitious goals in this area, similar to those being debated in Germany, for example, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, reducing the massive dependence on coal and introducing a carbon tax.