Africa has mixed reaction to Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan’ proposal

German Development Minister Gerd Müller [C] backs the plan, but it has faced criticism that maintains that it is only a way for Germany to externally control migration. [Kigali/ Flickr]

Germany’s planned ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa has been greeted with both optimism and scepticism, with its supporters hailing it as a cure for Africa’s age old development problems and its critics questioning Germany’s true intentions. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The original Marshall Plan was initiated by the Unite States and was meant to jumpstart European economies following the end of World War Two at a cost of $100 billion. The plan, implemented within four years, chaperoned the fastest period of economic growth in European history that saw industrial production jump to 35%.

Germany now wants to transfer a similar plan to Africa, with a view to creating a conducive environment and opportunities for the African youth in particular, by making them stay and find meaningful employment at home rather than looking for work in Europe.

It is seen as a stab at containing the unprecedented inflow of migrants to Germany, following its open door policy for refugees.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, close to 160,000 Africans have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year and 4,220 have died while trying.

Germany wants to put a stop to this with its proposal. According to Development Minister Gerd Müller, who called on developed countries to back the plan, the time is right to introduce a different model in Africa away from development aid, if nations of the world were to tame the migration crisis, which he said would see millions of Africans making their way to Europe.

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The key areas of focus for the plan include education, youth, strengthening of the economies and the rule of law.

Critics of the plan have poured cold water on the idea, arguing that it is a classic example of comparing apples and oranges.

Jacob Kahenya, a political scientist in Kenya, argues that the plan misses the point by comparing the African situation now to what happened in Eastern Europe after the Second World War.

“Situations and circumstances between the Marshall Plan of 1948 and what Germany is trying to introduce now are completely different. 21st century Africa requires serious and multi-faceted approaches in addressing the problems bedevilling it, part of which include some serious home grown solutions. This plan would be an outright flop,” Kahenya insisted.

Dr Naseeb Mapunda, a diplomatic expert based in Tanzania, agreed, arguing that Germany is acting in its own interests to bring immigration under control and warned that Berlin would dictate what it sees as priority areas in spending, which might not be in tandem with Africa’s.

“We have to admit that Germany is acting on its own interest. Would Germany have rolled out such grand plans if it wasn’t grappling with the migrant crisis? While a plan of this nature is meant to spur a country or region’s economic growth through targeting all sectors of the economy, chances are Germany will dictate where the support will go, and definitely this will be towards areas that will curtail movement of people out of Africa, this however might not be African governments priorities, which will defeat the spirit of the plan,” Dr Mapunda warned.

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Kahenya added that each African nation has its own problems and its priority areas, and that the plan risks running into headwinds if it generalises the continent’s varied problems.

“Priorities are different across many African countries, as are problems. You just don’t decide that one solution will address the problems facing the 54 African nations. Each problem requires its own plan and this is where the Marshall plan fails. Then there is the problem of how the resources will be distributed, going by tradition, misappropriation in Africa calls for a well thought out and different mode of execution to stem pilferage,” the political scientist said.

But supports of the plan said that it is exactly what Africa has been waiting for and that its focus on job creation would not only empower young Africans but become a precursor to addressing other crucial economic activities, including increased and balanced trade and improving relations with Europe.

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“It is a very unique and different model that changes the way of doing business, from making Africans mere receivers to being partners with a view to empowering them and giving them a chance to increase their participation in international trade,” said Nairobi-based economist Mathias Okwemo.

He added that it is also about “being at the forefront of transforming their continent. Targeting the youth to become self-reliant entrepreneurs is perhaps the most ingenious aspect of the plan.”

With the plan now set to redefine Africa-Germany relations from one of just development aid to one of homegrown economic empowerment, the jury is still out on if Africans will warm up to the idea.