Expanding partnerships in Africa

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Federal Chancellor Scholz visits Senegal, Niger and South Africa Expanding partnerships in Africa

In the final stage of a three-day visit that took in stops in Senegal and Niger, the Federal Chancellor visited South Africa on Tuesday. The talks focused on deepening economic relations, especially concerning energy, investments and trade. Scholz praised South Africa as a “key country” for Germany.

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Federal Chancellor Scholz and President Ramaphosa of South Africa in Pretoria.

South Africa had an “invaluable role” in promoting stability in Africa, said Federal Chancellor Scholz when he met President Ramaphosa (r.).

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

At the end of a three-day journey across Africa, the Federal Chancellor concluded his trip with a visit to South Africa, where he was welcomed with military honours by President Cyril Ramaphosa. “South Africa is and will remain a key country for Germany in Africa,” Scholz stressed at a joint press conference in Pretoria. South Africa is Germany’s key partner south of the Sahara and is the only African member of the G20.

South Africa to attend G7 summit as a guest

The Federal Chancellor informed journalists that he had invited South Africa to attend the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau as a guest: “This will send out a common message about strong democracies that are aware of their global responsibilities,” Scholz said, explaining that the aim was to put in place concrete initiatives and partnerships for the climate and sustainable investment. Scholz noted that there was a desire to work together to improve food security, to raise health standards around the world and make democracies more resilient. “I am delighted that South Africa has accepted my invitation and will participate,” said the Federal Chancellor.

From Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine to the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, global challenges “make huge impacts on our everyday lives,” Scholz said, calling for solidarity and intensive cooperation to mitigate these impacts, “which is one of the reasons I’ve come to Africa,” the Federal Chancellor stressed. Scholz said Europe was currently faced with “a dreadful war following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” This war was not only affecting Europe, he said, “which is why I have reassured the president that we are acutely aware of the serious consequences of this war for Africa.”

“Invaluable role” supporting stability in Africa

As the current incumbent of the G7 presidency, Germany had already developed proposals “to mitigate the effects of the Russian invasion on energy prices, the global economy and food security around the world,” Scholz said, adding that the proposals would be an important topic at the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau. The Federal Chancellor also praised the “invaluable role” that South Africa plays in supporting political and economic stability in Africa.

The talks also covered the climate crisis, which Scholz said was a “global crisis” that could “only be fought by taking a global approach.” The Federal Chancellor called for “close economic cooperation and highly ambitious goals” to achieve this, stressing that Germany was in the process of accelerating the transition of its energy supply.

Starting point for private investment in South Africa

The Federal Chancellor pledged Germany’s participation in the “Just Energy Transition Partnership” that would address some of the most pressing issues of our age. It could, he said, be the key to accelerating the transition to climate neutrality, reaffirming that “it will be a starting point for private investment to become more involved in South Africa, investing there to focus on future markets such as green hydrogen.”

That afternoon the Federal Chancellor visited Sasol, a South African company, which he described as “the outcome of a promising German-South African research cooperation to develop climate-neutral aviation fuel.”

The international oil and chemical concern Sasol is South Africa’s second-largest industrial company. It was founded in 1950 as the South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation to produce fuel through the use of gasification technologies. Today it is a member of a German-South African research cooperation project to develop climate-neutral fuels.

South Africa: “an ally in the world of democracies”

Later that afternoon, Federal Chancellor Scholz visited “Number Four”, the former Johannesburg prison. During the Apartheid era, the majority of the prison’s inmates were political prisoners. Scholz described Number Four as a “very powerful and very moving” place. At that time conditions in the prison, which was constantly over-filled, were inhuman and inmates were tortured in solitary confinement. But the Federal Chancellor also stressed that this prison was also “a sign that freedom is something that people will do anything to fight for.” He described how the inmates had accepted inhumane suffering in order to be able to go on fighting, “and it worked,” Scholz said.

Scholz also recalled Nelson Mandela, who had managed to “reconcile the whole country, despite all its many agonies and great suffering.” In common with many people around the world, Scholz said, this continued “to make a great impression on him.” Scholz noted that a mandate had arisen from history, as a country like South Africa that had fought so hard for democracy “must always be an ally in the world of democracies, which is by no means limited to the few countries of the classical West.”

Before returning to Germany, the Federal Chancellor took part in a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad in southern Africa.

South Africa is Germany’s key parter in Africa south of the Sahara. Germany, in turn, is South Africa’s second most important bilateral trading partner. As the only African member of the G20, South Africa jointly holds the presidency of the G20 African Advisory Group with Germany. To date, over 600 German businesses have invested well over 5 billion euros in South Africa, where they employ almost 100,000 people. In addition to these, just as many other jobs are created indirectly by German businesses.

Visit to Federal Armed Forces troops in Niger

The Federal Chancellor had visited Niger on Monday, where he made a stop at the Tillia air transport base to meet the German special forces mission “Gazelle”, which is part of the European Union Training Mission Mali (EUTM). The Federal Chancellor talked to the German troops stationed at the base. “I respect what you’re doing. I respect it especially given the fact that it’s always dangerous and never hazard-free,” the Federal Chancellor stressed.

German naval special forces based in Tillia are training special forces from Niger to combat Islamist terror in the region. Around 200 German troops are involved in Operation Gazelle, which commenced in 2018. Scholz said the Federal Armed Forces had made extraordinary achievements in the region, where they had brought about remarkable things under very difficult conditions. “There is near-universal praise for the operation here, which is seen as a very successful role model for much of what can be done,” said the Federal Chancellor as he commended the efforts of the troops.

In the capital Niamey, the Federal Chancellor later met the President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, for talks. The bilateral talks focused on issues including solutions for crises and conflicts and how to improve the security situation in the region. The leaders also discussed the serious food shortages in the Sahel region.

Developing democratic traditions

“Our partnership is now 60 years old and has constantly evolved throughout. This is something we can built on,” stressed the Federal Chancellor. He noted how the good relations formed the basis of development partnerships, “whether in terms of agriculture and combating climate change, or schools and professional education,” the Federal Chancellor said. “We want to improve, deepen, intensify and expand what we’re doing.” 

Scholz explained that two things connect Germany and Niger: “We are democracies and fighting for democracy is important to us.” He expressed his deep gratitude for the activities Niger had put in place to develop and guarantee its democratic tradition

Niger is one of the countries in Africa that are directly affected by the challenging security situation in the Sahel region, as well as by climate change and humanitarian threats. For this reason, international involvement in Niger focused on security policy has becoming increasingly important in recent years. Alongside the Gazelle military training mission, Germany is also involved in the EUCAP EU capacity building mission in Sahel Niger, and is supporting the country by training security forces as part of a joint security and defence policy.

First stop in Senegal

Olaf Scholz began his first visit to Africa as Federal Chancellor with a visit to Senegal on Sunday. Following his arrival in Dakar, the Federal Chancellor was received with military honours by the Senegalese President Macky Sall. After this the two leaders discussed bilateral and international issues.

Alongside security issues connected to global crises, their talks focused on initiatives to promote climate protection and sustainable investment, food security and global health. “I quite deliberately chose Senegal as the first stop on this visit,” Scholz said after the meeting, stressing that the partnership between the two countries was intensive and would remain so.

“We are united by concern about the complex security situation in the Sahel and concerns about the conflict spreading,” Scholz stressed, expressing his “horror that Russian mercenaries are now in Mali.” These mercenaries are blamed for serious human rights violations.

The Federal Chancellor reaffirmed that “Germany must respond to this development.” For this reason, Germany would reorganise its previous involvement while also living up to its responsibilities. Scholz also explained that the decision had been taken “that we would continue to support the UN MINUSMA mission in Mali.” The Federal Chancellor noted that, while Germany had recently extended its involvement in the mission by another year, “we must also closely scrutinise the difficult conditions that currently prevail in Mali, while critically examining the new challenges.”

The two leaders joined German and Senegalese business representatives, following which Olaf Scholz and President Sall jointly opened an extension to a solar power station in Diass. The project was supported by Germany and contributes to supplying sustainable energy in the region, with the aim of using renewables to stabilise the energy network.

Senegal is one of the partner countries involved in the “Compact with Africa” initiative, which was set up under Germany’s G20 Presidency in 2017. Senegal has set itself the objective of promoting economic development in Africa. Senegal took on the presidency of the African Union in February 2022 and in this context has focused on crises in the region, overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery for the continent. Senegal is also joining India, Indonesia and South Africa as a guest visitor to this year’s G7 summit in Elmau.