After its relative absence until recently, Africa has become increasingly important for Germany. A number of major shifts have played a role in the continent’s rise to the top of the priorities of Germany’s political policy agenda, mainly the outbreak of the refugee crisis and the migration of Africans to Europe in 2015, in addition to the rise in the activity of terrorism and organized crime networks in Africa, and Berlin’s desire to play a greater role in the continent. This has driven Germany to pay more attention to Africa. This was manifested at several levels in light of Germany’s growing interests and motives with respect to Africa. This would enhance Germany’s future influence in the continent.
Germany’s interests in Africa
Motives of the German orientation towards Africa
Numerous motives have incentivised Berlin to turn to Africa for establishing its geopolitical interests. The most prominent of those motives are the following:
Germany’s gateways into Africa and the nature of German moves
Berlin adopts a number of gateways for enhancing its presence and influence in Africa, mainly:
The political and diplomatic gateway: Africa is of increasing importance in Berlin’s policy. Chancellor Merkel’s frequent visits to a number of African countries and the adoption of the new strategy are signs of the government’s awareness of Germany’s increasing strategic interests in the continent. Merkel’s political rhetoric also indicates that it is necessary to take interest in Africa’s destiny and that the wellbeing of the continent is in Germany’s interests. This constitutes a change in Germany’s strategy and its shift from showing sympathy to practising realpolitik. Germany continues its efforts to exercise its power in Africa. Berlin held three main conferences for Africa in the period between 2017 and 2019. German officials also paid multiple visits to Africa during that period. Merkel went on a number of tours to countries of the continent, such as her two tours in 2019 to some countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria. She also visited South Africa and Angola in February 2020 with the aim of enhancing relations and showing solidarity with regard to critical issues such as illegal migration.
It can be said that this wave of German diplomatic moves in Africa explains the extent of the deep impact of the illegal migration crisis on Germany’s foreign policy.
The economic gateway: Germany aims to reinforce its economic relations with Africa and develop feasible policies regarding development and limiting illegal migration. Germany continues to develop its relations with African countries where it invests nearly 9 billion dollars in Africa annually. Furthermore, Germany’s trade volume with countries of the continent is worth nearly 50 billion dollars annually. South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Angola are Germany’s largest five economic partners in the continent. There are nearly 1,000 German companies carrying out business in Africa, and 5 percent of the other companies plan to invest in the future. German-African economic relations encompass more than one area and not just energy. The most prominent of those areas are consumption goods, logistical services, infrastructure development, machinery, chemicals, industrial and agricultural products, and business administration.
A number of German establishments and companies operate in Africa, such as the Adennauer Foundation that operates in Democratic Congo, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) such as Hansgrohe AG, Schwenk Group that operates in the field of construction materials and has successfully set up a cement plant in Namibia, and Siemens. Some companies have also been involved in the construction of the Mongomeyen airport in Equatorial Guinea. Germany constitutes South Africa’s second largest trade partner; more than 500 German companies operate in that country.
Berlin’s interest in Africa reveals an increase in its awareness of the importance of economic development and its role in changing the rules of the game for African countries at multiple levels, mainly preventing the loss by those countries of their youth and saving the youth from falling prey to migration.
The security gateway: in addition to its rising political, economic and humanitarian role in Africa, Berlin wishes to play a greater military role in the continent. This was manifested in the enhanced German military presence within the UN peacekeeping missions. In early 2020, Germany extended two military missions in Mali and the Horn of Africa and provided support to some African countries in the field of military training and counter-terrorism. It has also been studying the possibility of deploying its troops in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger in the stage ahead.
Germany has been enhancing its military position in a number of African regions with the aim of securing its interests in the continent and balancing the roles of rivals. German military troops are stationed in countries such as Mali, Central Africa, Libya, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Djibouti. Berlin also provides some military assistance and material support to some African countries such as Niger. On the other hand, Berlin maintains some military bases in Djibouti and Niger to preserve its military presence, enhance its influence in the continent, and provide logistical support to UN operations.
Thus, Germany has given up its reservations regarding military intervention in Africa to bear its responsibility as a major European power, particularly after Brexit. Germany is also strongly driven in that direction by the prevention of the phenomenon of illegal migration and the flow of African refugees to Europe and combating terrorism in the African continent, particularly in the Sahel and West Africa.
Adoption of a strategy for Africa and the announcement of a number of initiatives: in 2014, Berlin announced a strategy towards Africa to replace the old strategy adopted by the federal government in 2011. This aims at achieving a qualitative shift in the German presence in the continent. This strategy is based on five main areas, namely peacebuilding, development, combating illegal migration, working with African partners, and increasing cooperation with the civil society in Africa.
Within the framework of the model shift experienced by the German government in its cooperation with Africa, in 2017, Berlin launched more than one initiative, namely the German Marshall Plan with Africa, Compact with Africa, AfricaGrow, and ProAfrika, with the aim of shifting from the traditional development policy to the stage of partnership with the African countries and redefining the German-African relations. The Marshall Plan constitutes an ambitious framework of the German government towards Africa with the aim of increasing trade and development in the continent and reducing the flows of mass migration to Europe. It also focuses on fair trade, increasing private investment, economic development, and creating job opportunities. The Marshall Plan goes beyond the idea of economic reform to comprise peace and security as a second pillar, and democracy and the rule of law as a third pillar. The Compact with Africa initiative also constitutes an alternative to aid programmes that prevent economic growth in the continent rather than enhance it. The initiative has been signed by nearly 12 African countries, and constitutes a good step towards sending more German companies to invest in Africa and establish partnerships with it. Those initiatives are also characterized by having a common denominator relating to the role that Germany wishes to play with regard to African development that goes beyond the traditional tools of development cooperation. Migration dynamics cannot be successfully controlled unless the economies of African countries provide enough incentives for the young.
All this was associated with a number of guidelines that were launched by Berlin in March 2019 for Germany’s policy towards Africa. These comprise the following five objectives: sustainable development, promoting peace and security, strengthening a rules-based global order, managing migration, and deepening civil society partnerships.
The moral and ethical gateway: Berlin’s policy in Africa is based on establishing some values and principles, such as respect for human rights, democracy, rule of law, and peaceful resolution of disputes. This was manifested in some of the principles of the strategy and initiatives launched by Berlin. The German government is increasingly required to strengthen economic relations and increase investment in Africa, provided that this is not done at the expense of human rights, supporting good governance, and democracy as a priority to enhance stability and conflict prevention.
Combating illegal migration: illegal migration constitutes a source of concern not just for Africa but also for Europe. The average net number of migrants to Germany in recent years has reached nearly 500 thousand annually. It reached its peak in 2015 with more than one million migrants. Germany has acknowledged that the issue of illegal migration cannot be resolved in isolation from African collaboration and support. Therefore, partnerships with African countries were launched with the aim of enhancing training, employment and economic development to deal with the root causes of migration. This crisis has driven Berlin to underline the need for a development policy that serves to stop the flow of migrants from African countries. The beginning was with the implementation of programmes within the framework of the Development Investment Fund for Africa worth 1.1 billion euros in 2019.
Counter-terrorism: enhancing support for counter-terrorism in countries of West Africa has become a principal axis of Germany’s policy towards Africa in light of Germany’s commitment to help in dealing with the rise of terrorist activity. The interest of both Germany and the EU has increased through putting pressure to improve the security situation and the economic conditions in the region, particularly considering that poverty and conflicts are among the main factors that lead to migration to Europe, and also through undertaking to provide logistical and material support and training to the armies of countries of the region such as Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Group of five Sahel countries (G5S).
Development aid constitutes an important gateway for enhancing German policy in Africa in light of the hard economic and humanitarian conditions witnessed by many African countries despite Berlin’s efforts to introduce a different model into Africa that would be an alternative to development aid with the aim of taming the migration crisis. Berlin has provided humanitarian aid to some African countries such as Sudan (worth 6 million euros), Somalia (worth 65 million euros) in 2019, and Democratic Congo (worth nearly 48.7 million euros) in 2018. It also works closely with UN organizations such as the World Food Programme.
Opportunities for and challenges to enhancing the German role in the continent
Future of German presence in Africa
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 South World, Ibid.
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 Henry Ridgwell, Ibid.
 BBC News, Africa 'a priority' as Merkel's Germany aims to stem migration, 11 October 2016, available at: https://bbc.in/2AIn42G
 Germany Africa, Ibid.
 South World, Ibid.
 Bob Koigi, Africa has mixed reaction to Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan’ proposal, EurActiv, 7 December 2016, available at: https://bit.ly/3iIzN6G
 DW, Boost Africa investment, Germany's Merkel tells 'Compact with Africa' summit, 19 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Z4SABd
 African Business, Germany In Africa: Time To Play Catch-Up?, 31 October 2012, available at: https://bit.ly/2BL043N
 South World, Ibid.
 African Business, Ibid.
 Germany Africa Business Forum, How German firms can tap into Africa’s diversification drive, 3 February 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2ZerasT
 Hassan Isilow, South Africa, Germany hold talks to strengthen ties, Anadolu Agency, 6 February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/38F2VHw
 Peter Schwarz, Ibid.
 South World, Ibid.
 Gregor Link, Germany and EU expand military deployment in Africa, World Socialist website, 2 June 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/30xweIa.
 German Information Centre Africa, New Chapter in German-African partnership, 21 May 2014, available at: https://bit.ly/2DkqGcb
 Daniel Pelz, Ibid.
 Bob Koigi, Ibid.
 Julia Leiniger, New wine in an old bottle? The German ‘Marshall Plan with Africa’, The Broker, 2 March 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2ZVhbI8
 European Views, Does Africa need Germany’s Compact with Africa?, 2 December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2ZUDePf
 Andrew Green, Germany's €1B push into Africa, devex, 13 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/38CwtFm
 Arndt Hopfmann, Development Aid for Investors: Germany’s new Africa Policy, Review of African Political Economy, 28 June 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/3213gTt
 Andrew Green, Ibid.
 Le Consortium pour les infrastructures en Afrique, Foreign policy: Germany's all inclusive package for Africa, 2 June 2014, available at: https://bit.ly/38Eyot6
 Eckart Naumann, Angela Merkel’s state visit to South Africa: its significance amid the current Germany-South Africa trade relationship, tralac, 12 February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3fcYRAw
 Kirsten Grieshaber, Germany’s Merkel urges more investment in African nations, AP News, 19 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Zb4Noe
 Andrew Green, Idim.
 German Information Centre Africa, Merkel kicks off West Africa tour pledging support in fight against terrorism, 3 May 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3f3nr6V
 Bob Koigi, Ibid.
 German Information Centre Africa, Ebola in the crisis region of eastern Congo, 22 February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3efUfIR
 German Information Centre Africa, Rapid and effective humanitarian assistance for Somalia, 5 April 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/38z4hTS
 Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, Germany’s role in the 2030 Agenda: A view from South Africa, The South African Institute of International Affairs, 25 January 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2ZVTYFI
 Global Construction Review, German builders fret over China’s dominance in Africa, 24 February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2ZgdbTn
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