Position on the need for an overarching Africa strategy

Berlin, 07/02/2023: In the new Africa.Table Briefing, Kay Pfaffenberger gives his point of view on a more holistic Africa strategy in the context of the recently published strategy of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The BMZ’s Africa strategy contains positive approaches. However, it is not a substitute for a government strategy that, in addition to development, also includes education and the labour market as well as security and energy.

Important voices such as Robert Kappel, Andreas Freytag and Stefan Liebing have already expressed their views on the BMZ’s new strategy paper. At the core of the criticism is the lack of dovetailing with other policy areas. But not to think in interconnections in the 21st century is hardly comprehensible.

It makes clear that, on the one hand, there is a lack of an overarching Africa strategy that unites the areas of economic development (1), education and the labour market (2) as well as security policy and energy supply (3) in an overall interdepartmental concept to find a solution. On the other hand, the Eurocentric approach to values is rightly pointed out.

A prime example is the Duty of Care Act, where the cooperation of partner countries is essential, but local laws, circumstances and norms or values are not (sufficiently) taken into account. It is worth recalling the collective outcry in Germany when the USA imposed sanctions on companies working for Nord-Stream 2 corporation. A positive aspect of the BMZ paper is that it at least takes up the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Risks are unequally distributed

Economic development means that countries are strengthened in their economic power. This is usually not done through government projects, but through cooperation based on entrepreneurial activities. A prime example of this are the numerous renewable energy projects.

The lack of safeguards for many African countries, which are classified as non-coverable, is problematic. From the point of view of an institution that is not allowed to take any recognisable risks, this is logical. From a development policy perspective, however, it is questionable if, for example, not even 50,000 euros are available for projects in Sahel countries, but 1.3 billion euros are no problem in the Russian business. What entrepreneur will want to bear this risk alone? Moreover, Liebing and Freytag rightly point to the lack of support from the private banking sector.

This is the transition to the topic of education and the labour market. The planned huge investments in the production of green hydrogen in Africa are estimated by the European Investment Bank at one trillion euros. For the “operation and maintenance” sector alone, many workers are needed. In the main target countries, however, this is not available despite high unemployment rates. It can be estimated that it will take at least four to five years to build up the corresponding education and study programmes. Accordingly, the necessary labour would be taken away from the respective domestic economy or would have to be flown in from Europe at great expense.

Africa needs sustainable aid

Furthermore, the context of a strategy of economic cooperation and development depends on having a special focus on the needs of the target countries. The example of South Africa, where the unemployment rate is 35 percent and rising, shows these challenges like a burning glass. Investments in downstream products (green steel, green production of fertilisers) are not in the spotlight at all.

A development policy approach must accordingly promote education offensives (in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance) as well as take into account domestic needs in energy policy. To this end, the development of local production, such as green steel, must be promoted (in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy), and the development of green fertiliser production to strengthen domestic supply must be promoted (in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Agriculture).

However, the approach to sustainably build the required capacities, whether in the field of vocational training or higher education, is not evident. Such coordinated action would reduce unemployment, promote sustainable economic development and would also be of considerable importance in terms of security policy.

See the full Briefing: https://table.media/africa/