Germany heads for Africa

Published on Nov. 27, 2023 at 7:35 a.m.

May 2023. Chancellor Olaf Scholz lands at Nairobi airport for a two-day visit to Kenya and Ethiopia. To reach the capital, he takes a brand new highway, which has reduced the travel time from two hours to twenty minutes on days with heavy traffic jams. A Chinese project delivered in 2022.

Five months later, he is in Nigeria, in Lagos. In this city of more than 20 million inhabitants, the leader crosses the lagoon by boat. In front of him, the city’s first elevated metro line. Designed to transport 250,000 people per day, it connects the continent to the business district on Lagos Island. Another Chinese construction site.

Germans late

As much as Germans like to be on time, they are constantly late in Africa. For a long time, their companies had their eyes on Asia and Eastern Europe, their natural playground.

The low level of industrialization in Africa and the limited weight of the middle cl repelled German companies.

In the 2010s, the continent represented less than 1% of direct investment abroad according to a study by the public bank KfW. And two countries absorbed three quarters of the amount, South Africa and Egypt. Race results? In 2022, China controlled 30% of the African machine tool market, far ahead of Germany (10%).

Change of direction

Today, Berlin wants to change things. Olaf Scholz has made three trips to Africa since his arrival at the Chancellery. Economy Minister Robert Habeck visited Namibia and South Africa at the end of 2022, while Finance Minister Christian Lindner was going to Mali and Ghana in February.

A week ago, the “Compact with Africa” economic forum was held in Berlin, an initiative launched in 2017 by Germany, when it chaired the G20. Thirteen countries from the African continent participated.

“The idea is that the G20 works closely with reforming African partners, in order to improve economic conditions in these countries and to encourage more private investment,” we explain at the Chancellery.

A “multipolar world”

For Olaf Scholz, this cooperation with African countries is part of the vision of a “multipolar world”, far from the clic China-United States confrontation, where a Europe should find its place.

“The growth potential in Africa is enormous. The continent is simply essential in resolving global issues. We want, we must more than ever, to make it a partner for the sustainable economy of tomorrow,” launched Olaf Scholz.

During the event, the Chancellor announced the provision of 4 billion euros for the production of renewable energies. But “let’s be clear: this is not about development aid, according to an outdated donor-beneficiary scheme. These are investments that are profitable for both parties,” explained Olaf Scholz.

Diversify supply

Since the war in Ukraine, Germany has sought to diversify its sources of energy supply. A subject which played “a very important role in many of the Chancellor’s trips”, they say at the Chancellery.

In this context, a gas supply contract was unveiled last week with Nigeria, with the eventual delivery of 1.2 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year.

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