The Chancellor in West Africa

Stepping up cooperation with the Sahel region

The Chancellor has visited three of the G5 Sahel states in Africa: Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Her main concern was to work with the African partner states to forge ahead with regional solutions and to further step up cooperation.

Chancellor Angela Merkel in discussion with the Presidents of the G5 Sahel states

In a meeting with the Presidents of the G5 Sahel states, Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged further support in the fight against terrorism

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

Alongside political talks, her itinerary included a visit to Bundeswehr troops stationed in the region, meetings with civil society representatives and discussions with students.

The Chancellor’s trip to Africa aimed to send a clear political message of support. With her partners, the Chancellor discussed the areas in which cooperation to date can be improved. In close consultation with the EU and international partners the focus was in particular on optimising closer cooperation among the states of the Sahel and between these states and the EU and international partners.

First stop – Burkina Faso

In Ouagadougou, Chancellor Angela Merkel first met with Burkina Faso’s President, Roch Marc Kaboré, followed by a meeting with the Presidents of all G5 Sahel states. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Roch Marc Kaboré discussed the worsening security situation in the region. Germany wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with Burkina Faso with regard to cooperation in the security sector. That is why in 2018, Burkina Faso became a partner country of the training initiative, in order to help build capacities within the police and the gendarmerie. "We will then develop this further to embrace equipment, and will provide about ten million euros to this end. We will also offer advisory services to be provided by the Bundeswehr, also of the order of seven to ten million euros," pledged Angela Merkel. 

In development cooperation, Germany will provide 5.5 million euros more than planned, "in particular to adapt to the consequences of climate change, with a special focus on improving soil quality and on water resources management," said the Chancellor. 

Last year, Burkina Faso became one of the group of countries involved in the Compact with Africa. The Chancellor stressed that every effort will be made "to make significant progress, for instance with the German-African Business Association in the field of economic cooperation" before the meeting with member states scheduled for this autumn.

G5 meeting in Burkina Faso

One central item on the agenda in talks with the representatives of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad was intensifying cooperation among the states of the Sahel. The Chancellor underlined the fact that much has already been launched but some things are taking too long in the view of the countries affected. "That is why I will work to have things implemented swiftly and reliably," she stressed.

Following the G5 meeting, the Chancellor underscored the fact that the scale of the terrorist threat in this area had been made very clear, along with the urgency of the situation and the fact that the threat is growing. She continued, "The Presidents rightly noted that the fight against terrorism is an international responsibility." 

The Chancellor pointed out that the five countries spend about 15 or 20 per cent of their budget on defence, with some countries spending even more. This means that many social and development projects cannot currently be implemented. In the field of development cooperation in particular it must be considered how more money can be spent. Germany, for instance, will be providing an additional 60 million euros to the Niger Basin Authority. 

The G5 Sahel is an initiative launched by Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad to strengthen regional cooperation in the fields of economics and development, the fight against terrorism, and human trafficking and smuggling. Between 2017 and 2020 Germany will be providing support totalling 1.7 billion euros through development cooperation, stabilisation and post-conflict measures, training for the G5 force conjointe and police cooperation.

Second stop – visiting Bundeswehr troops in Mali

At Camp Castor in Gao, the Chancellor visited soldiers serving with the German contingent to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), where she was able to get a first-hand impression of the situation. Angela Merkel thanked the German soldiers on behalf of the entire German government. They are far from home, she said and are required to demonstrate great adaptability. "It is our goal to enable the region to ensure its own stability," explained Angela Merkel.

Third stop – a visit to the EUCAP Sahel Niger Mission

In Niamey on Thursday, the Chancellor first met with Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou for talks. After their meeting she pointed to new projects in the security sector. Along with the Netherlands, equipment assistance for border troops in Tahoua Province is already ongoing, she reported. The same is planned for 2020 at the border near Zinder. Assistance is being provided, especially with regard to training Niger’s armed forces, said the Chancellor at a joint press conference with President Issoufou, with "about 30 million euros invested recently".

In the field of development aid, efforts focus on a hospital in the region of Tahoua and health stations in rural areas. Investments are also to be made in water resources management and in the education sector. "We have provided another 10 million euros for water resources management and the education sector, as well as 15 million euros for health projects," said Angela Merkel. Development aid for Niger has now reached a very high level, said the Chancellor. Per capita of the population, "Germany now provides more development assistance to Niger than to any other African state".

Angela Merkel thanked Niger for its cooperation in the area of displacement and migration. Niger is really not one of the richest states in Africa, but in spite of extremely difficult circumstances it has always demonstrated its solidarity. Niger, for instance, declared its readiness to readmit refugees stranded in Libya. Cooperation, said the Chancellor, has also led to "greater understanding in Germany for the problems that exist here". The more that is known about Niger, the easier it will also be to convince companies to invest in Niger.

The Chancellor then visited the civilian EU training mission EUCAP Sahel in Niger. This is a cooperative European mission to train local police officers, in this case in Niger. The Chancellor said that in view of the questions of "illegal migration, as well as drug smuggling and arms smuggling" it is essential "to have a well equipped police force." Smugglers and traffickers have excellent technical equipment. She continued, "The good thing about cooperation with Niger is that the country’s government is developing its own very clear ideas, and we can then translate these into practice."

Before flying back to Germany on Friday, Angela Merkel is to visit the site where the organisation SOS FEVVF is building a new women’s shelter. In 2017 the Chancellor donated the women’s shelter 150,000 euros she had been awarded by the Finnish Government.