Germany’s new Africa policy holds few surprises

Migration, development, and security are the focus of the incoming German government’s Africa policy. But the private sector feels snubbed by the government’s new coalition deal.

The word “Africa” only appears four times in the coalition deal unveiled this week by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP), which appear set to form Germany’s next government.

That’s considerably less than 15 times the word appeared in the coalition treaty between the previous government of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the SPD, a combination known as the “grand coalition” in Germany.

“Africa policy is a marginal topic compared to the grand coalition’s agreement,” German-Africa expert Robert Kappel told DW.

That doesn’t mean that German-supported projects in Africa will come to a standstill, FDP development policy politician Christoph Hoffmann told DW.

“People in Africa can expect there to be a certain continuity in German development cooperation, where Africa remains the focus,” Hoffmann said.

A motorcycle displays the signs of aid organisation ‘Welthungerhilfe’ and of German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ) in front of the entrance to the GIZ regional office in Monrovia, Libera, 10 April 2015. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In his interview with DW, Hoffmann highlighted a series of commitments in the coalition treaty that will benefit Africa, such as the pledge to continue spending 0.7% of Germany’s gross national income on development in line with the United Nation’s goal.

Germany met this commitment for the first time in 2020.

Direct and indirect funding for development

The incoming government also wants to ensure that other financing, particularly for climate change, boosts development and directly benefits the poor, Hoffmann said.

“Small-scale farmers, for example, can engage in reforestation funded by international climate protection funds,” he explained.

However, the new coalition agreement doesn’t specify the levels of funding that would be available for such measures.

Germany’s development organizations see the agreement as containing several policies that will benefit Africans, even if the continent isn’t directly named.

“The incoming government wants to envisage health in a more networked way. They also want to focus on strengthening basic education, something that Germany has relatively neglected in the past,” said Stephan Exo-Kreischer, director of the development policy organization One.

These points aside, the coalition deal essentially regurgitates the Africa policy of previous governments. This includes increased cooperation with the African Union, support for the African Continental Free Trade Area, more aid for the crisis-ridden Sahel region, and the continuation of the G20 initiative, Compact with Africa launched by the previous German government.

ADDIS ABEBA, ETHIOPIA – MARCH 24: Workers during the visit of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the construction site of the new building of the departments for freedom and safty policy of the African Union on March 24, 2014 in Addis Abeba, Ehiopia. The construction is a project of German Society of international Partnership (Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit GIZ). Steinmeier visits Ethiopia, Tanzania and Angola during his trip to Africa. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

Private sector investment missing

However, this “business as usual” approach isn’t what Africa needs, says Robert Kappel.

“African countries have implemented many of their measures and aren’t so reliant on development cooperation anymore. And this isn’t in the [new] coalition agreement,” Kappel said.

The previous coalition government, led by Merkel’s CDU party, had set up several measures to make investing in Africa more attractive and less risky for German firms. These included a fund for German investment in Africa and improved risk protection for German companies.

The new coalition treaty hardly deals with these aspects, something that Christoph Kannengiesser from the German-African Business Association finds infuriating.

“Africa is clearly getting a raw deal, which is disappointing,” Kannengiesser told DW. “I believe that the further expansion and modernization of our relationship with Africa should be part and parcel of a progressive coalition.”

A New Migration Policy

The incoming German administration wants to control migration to Germany and Europe

New migration policy

The outgoing CDU party is also critical of the coalition agreement when it comes to its Africa policy.

“It is right to include health and education. But this needs to be supplemented by jobs and new perspectives if development is going to be sustainable,” CDU development politician Volkmar Klein told DW.

“That’s why we also need to invest in these countries, but there’s no more talk of that [in the agreement].”

The new coalition treaty, however, includes some demands made by civil society and African countries.

In regards to Namibia, the German government agrees to acknowledge its historical and political obligation to the country and promises to promote reconciliation.

The next coalition has also made sweeping changes to immigration policy.

This includes closing deals with countries that see many migrants leaving to try their luck in Germany and Europe. Such agreements will allow for more intensive development cooperation and make it easier for workers from those countries to migrate legally to Germany.

But it remains to be seen to what extent the coalition will manage to implement their agreement by the end of the next four-year legislature.

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