Germany eyes Africa’s ‘hearts and minds’
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for closer trade ties with African countries and announced new investment funds for the continent, as European leaders vied for Africa’s “hearts and minds” at the G20-led Summit for Africa in Berlin on Monday.
Launched under the German G20 presidency in 2017, the G20 Compact with Africa summit aims to connect private businesses from G20 states with investment projects in Africa. Thirteen African countries are affiliated with the scheme, while more have indicated their interest in joining.
At the summit in Berlin, Scholz reaffirmed that Germany and the EU want to intensify cooperation with the resource-rich continent, especially in sustainable energy production.
“Africa is our partner of choice when it comes to boosting our economic relations and taking the joint path towards a climate-neutral future,” he told reporters.
Forging closer ties with Africa is among Scholz’s priorities for his term.
As well as making three special trips to the African continent – more than to the US, Latin America and the Middle East (excluding international summits) – Scholz has also been a vocal advocate of the African Union joining the G20, which became a reality in September.
While government sources stress that the Chancellor sees this approach to African countries as championing “multilateralism”, the continent would also be an attractive partner to support Europe’s green transition and search for new geopolitical allies in a multipolar world.
African countries are rich in natural resources such as lithium and hydrogen, which are key to sustainable technologies and energy production.
But Europe may be a bit late to the party when it comes to investing in closer ties with the continent, as China has been pursuing its business interests in the region for decades, while countries such as Russia and Turkey are also jostling for influence.
“This Compact with Africa is a decade behind, that is the truth,” Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s newly elected president, told attendants in Berlin.
‘Europe needs Africa more than Africa needs Europe’
However, the German government is confident that Europe’s self-proclaimed cooperative approach will ultimately trump China’s offer and succeed in sowing the seeds of a closer partnership.
“Our concept of collaborative development is not just a matter of increasing employment in Germany but also about ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of the Global South,” a senior government official told reporters ahead of the summit.
He argued that European countries were not just “getting resources out of the ground” but boosting local production and processing capabilities.
In Berlin, Scholz emphasised that the EU and the financial firepower channelled in its Global Gateway investment initiative had a role to play in this. He announced that Germany would invest an additional €4 billion into the Africa-Europe Green Energy Initiative.
Europe’s presence was also boosted by the attendance of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron and outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The advances were generally well received, with African leaders highlighting at the summit that the continent was “open for business”.
The chancellor’s praise of Africa’s potential and call for investment was an important signal, an African diplomat told Euractiv, though he added: “I think at the moment Europe needs Africa more than Africa needs Europe.”
(Nick Alipour | Euractiv.de)