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Germany/Africa: ‘We have to come up with better offers for our African partners’ – Kofler

By Nicholas Norbrook

Posted on March 29, 2023 10:02

State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Bärbel Kofler
State Secretary to the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Bärbel Kofler (rights reserved)

Germany is attempting to recalibrate its stance towards the continent, says Bärbel Kofler, state secretary to the federal minister for economic cooperation and development . A new ‘Africa Strategy’ from the German ministry of development wants to push solutions toward climate change that accept the responsibility of industrialised countries, and a more humane way to manage migration.

The country’s new Africa strategy is over a year in the making, says Kofler, and involves conversations with scientists, business, politicians, civil society and youth in both Germany and on the continent.

“We knew we cannot do it alone, so there is a strong focus on partners,” says Kofler, both at the European level with ‘Team Europe’ initiatives, such as the global gateway for infrastructure, but also integrating strategic plans at the national and continental level in Africa, such as the African Union’s 2063 initiative.

While the economic focus is on creating the 25 million ‘decent jobs’ for youth needed each year in Africa, the political content, “is about three basics: it should be more social, more ecological, and more feminist”, says Kofler.

Germany does not want to hide its business interests on the continent. Rather, “we see that those interests will only come to a positive end if there is economic development” and hope to focus on creating local value. “We are one of the few ministries supporting the African Union with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.”

Search for win-win solutions

There is also an attempt to put forward the technical skills around contract negotiation that would better allow African countries to extract the most out of their natural resource projects. “You need strong administrative skills on the one hand, and also […] negotiating skills,” says Kofler, pointing to a Berlin-backed plan called CONNEX, which supports governments around the world in their complex negotiations with powerful energy and mineral multinationals.

The search for win-win solutions also includes integrating European plans for climate friendly energy options, such as Green Hydrogen production in Africa. “Hydrogen is important for African countries, but also for us as if you look at the European New Green Deal, we need this exchange,” says Kofler. “And we need also, of course, the support from the African side on that.”

Climate change is something where we as Europeans, or maybe countries from more richer or from an industrialised part of the world, have a great responsibility

Even though issues like the recovery from Covid-19, and the war in Ukraine are taking up diplomatic and domestic bandwidth, Kofler believes issues like helping Africa become more resilient to the impact of a warming planet will stay at the front of the agenda.

“Climate change is something where we as Europeans, or maybe countries from […] richer or from an industrialised part of the world, have a great responsibility; and it has to do with who is causing climate change.” Germany is supporting an insurance network for agricultural losses caused by climate change for example.

Climate migration

One clear impact of climate change will be climate migration. Here, Kofler is clear that Germany will not be following the lead of countries like the UK and Norway, who are signing deals with Rwanda to send migrants by plane back to Africa for processing. “We do not comment [on] the decision[s] of other countries. The German government approach to migration is in full accordance with European and international legal standards,” says Kofler. “I think that is a clear hint in which direction we are going.”

She says that Germany is working with the African Union on the issue of migration to come up with solutions that are mutually beneficial, “and fair for everybody”.

Germany is creating ‘Centres for Migration and Development’ in five countries in Africa (Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia), which provide, for example, vocational training for those who want to migrate into particular industries in Europe.

Kofler also wants to add some nuance into the debate on migration. “It’s about those who maybe don’t want the whole lifespan in Germany, but only maybe a few years, and then go back,” she says. “Because that experience is maybe something we also did in our life, living a few years abroad, and then coming back to our countries – I think that’s quite a normal wish for them.”

There is also a desire to engage with the arrival of China as a lead partner on the continent. “It’s easier to do the finger pointing,” says Kofler, “but that’s not really helpful at the end of the day”. Pointing to the great uptake of Chinese infrastructure development on the continent, with all its allied concerns about impact assessments and debt buildups, Kofler points out that infrastructure is “something we didn’t do too much of in the last decades”.

“We have to come up with better instruments and better offers for African partners.”

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