As part of The Africa Roundtable, a forum for decision-makers from politics, business and society on African–European cooperation, this publication aims to highlight African solutions to African challenges and to strengthen dialogue and mutual understanding be- tween the neighbouring continents of Europe and Africa. To this end, we spoke with 16 experts from the various regions of Africa about trends on the continent and partnership approaches to a new policy on Africa in Germany and Europe.
Europe and Africa: Partners at last?
According to the experts, the colonial pasts still shape relations between European and African countries. Historical injustice and old-fashioned belief systems continue to have an impact today. At the same time, the interviewees welcomed Germany’s reorientation of African–European cooperation towards establishing a partnership of equals. These positive approaches must be further expanded and made sustainable.
Our interview partners collectively agree that Germany and Europe must realise that they need Africa. Not only to cope with global crises, but also as a trading partner. Germany’s policy on Africa is generally perceived as a “house divided”. More inter-ministerial coordination and agreements between different actors in German- African cooperation are needed. In addition, the experts comment that coordination of the national with the European level should be enhanced to avoid duplication of structures.
Africa and Germany in the world
The experts see Africa as not adequately represented in multilateral organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the United Nations Security Council, and call for institutional reforms. Here, support from the German government is desired. In addition, Germany is perceived as a representative of liberal values that should assume more global responsibility and become a stronger voice in international discourses.
Approaches according to clusters
The challenges described by the experts can be broadly grouped into the following clusters: 1) Economy and employment; 2) Trade and economic integration; 3) Climate and environment; 4) Peace and security; 5) Good governance and democratisation; 6) Covid-19, health and research.
Economy and employment
According to the experts, economic growth is the key factor for development. They point out that Africa’s economy is growing, but that few jobs and limited added value are being created locally. Population growth, (youth) unemployment, low productivity and the persistent image of Africa as an unattractive investment location are seen as fundamental challenges to economic development. The interviewees consider the international and African private sectors to be the principal actors in this regard. Although it is the task of African governments to create investment-friendly conditions in their countries, the activities of German or European companies in Africa could be made more attractive through government protection programmes.
Trade and economic integration
The interview partners voice criticism that high tariffs and agri- cultural subsidies from the European side continue to prevent Africa’s equal participation in the world market and also weaken local producers. According to the experts, these trade barriers must be removed and the sale of European food at dumping prices in Africa must be stopped. The planned carbon pricing as part of the European Green Deal could also make it more difficult for Africa to access the European market and should therefore be reconsidered.
Climate and environment
A fundamental issue for the interviewees is climate (in)justice: Although African countries contribute less than 4 % of global green- house gas emissions, the continent suffers massively from the consequences of climate change. Simultaneously, the expansion of renewable energies should not come at the expense of urgently needed economic growth in Africa: the experts propose compensation payments from emitters in the Global North.
Peace and security
According to the experts, wars, conflicts and migration have complex causes and can ultimately only be solved with development policy strategies that involve local populations and create prospects on the ground. They reject approaches focussed on military or security policy and consider them short-sighted. In the eyes of our interviewees, Germany has built political capital in Africa and should use this when acting as a mediator in conflicts.
Good governance and democratisation
Two perspectives emerge from the discussions: Firstly, that the demand for good governance should arise from the national population itself. Secondly, that – in rare instances – political conditionality can provide an effective incentive for governments to implement reforms. The experts believe that external partners should primarily support civil societies on the ground to create sustainable and context-specific solutions with local expertise. Access to information, communication and digital services is particularly important for the development of civil society.
Covid-19, health and research
As the interviewees point out, the coronavirus pandemic has shown that pandemics can only be effectively combated through the production of medicines and vaccines in African countries. The necessary production capacities should be expanded with investments from foreign pharmaceutical companies. To enable local production, European countries should reconsider their restricting stance towards the release of vaccine patents. Temporary labour migration in the health sector would promote knowledge transfer and at the same time compensate for the shortage of skilled workers in Germany.
- Nica Weidemeyer, Junior Project Manager
- Nora Kiefer, Senior Project Manager and Project Lead
- Global Perspectives Initiative
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