On Wednesday (29 November), the fifth EU-Africa Summit will be the first test case for acting Chancellor Angela Merkel. Together with French President Emmanuel Macron and other EU leaders, she intends to send a signal to the Ivory Coast for much closer cooperation with the southern continent. EURACTIV Germany reports.
For a number of reasons, Europe is slowly falling behind in a world region with which it has been very closely linked for historical reasons since the colonial era.
On the one hand, countries such as China have now for long rivalled Europeans in Africa – recently the People’s Republic even opened its first military base in Djibouti. On the other hand, the EU is struggling to steer migration to the north, at least in a regulated way.
Merkel, Macron and, consequently, the EU, have initiated migration and cooperation agreements with African countries. This applies to the countries of origin and countries of transition. And it is not only about refugees. The collapse of Libya has shown how terrorist groups can spread in the emerging chaos – and also benefit from human trafficking.
In the past two years, an alternative way to the classical development aid was tried out: The “Marshall-Plan”, pursued amongst others by German development minister Gerd Müller (CSU), was explicitly meant to support and enhance private engagement.
And looking at the growth rates of several African countries, the trends seem to be positive: German trade with Africa increased in the first two quarters of 2017 by 16,7% and €13.8 billion. In comparison, 2016 saw a decrease.
Nevertheless, the Africa Society of the German economy is not really satisfied: “Especially when comparing with the international competitors, German companies still tend to restrain because of the lacking support,” the managing director Christoph Kannengießer criticized in a Reuters interview. Other states are operating with much less state support.
Fight against smugglers and Islamists
The same goes for France, too. Macron has announced a big Africa speech – which he wants to make in Burkina Faso and deliberately not in one of the former colonies. His predecessor Francois Holland demanded a stronger European orientation towards Africa, too. But for many years, even the closest ally Germany has suspected Paris of looking after its own interests in the former colonies in the first place.
Meanwhile, the situation changed and Germany, France, Italy and Spain are pulling together when it comes to the fight against tugboats and Islamist extremists because everyone is affected.
And in the meantime, the presence of China has become so strong, that the other European countries are also taking the issue seriously. Moreover, the migration pressure has increased because of strong population growth, mismanagement in some African states and growing climate change damages.
It is not undisputed among the 28 EU-governments, that the EU, therefore, concludes migration agreements with some of the African governments.
As recently as two years ago, the EU and the African Union have agreed on closer cooperation in migration issues. Back then, the African states were not only promised a “companionate relationship” by Merkel but also more legal ways for employment and study opportunities in the EU.
This, in 2015 was considered as urgently needed: It became evident, that several African states might have an interest also in illegal migration because the payments made by migrants from Europe to their families in the home countries were higher than the official development aid of the Western countries.
Therefore, the EU increased their incentives: With the European foreign investment plan, an instrument was created that can incentivize private investments in Africa up to a total volume of €40 billion.
For Merkel, the migration issue is also high on the agenda during her visit to Abidjan. Although she calls for stronger educational measures of the African states, the Chancellor announced at the weekend that she wants to negotiate the return of Africans without residence permit to their home countries with some African governments.
In the background are the slow repatriation procedures of North African governments.