Enough talk, action needed

Wednesday 20 Nov 2019

More investments are needed to end the common problems of Africa and Europe, concluded a Compact with Africa summit in Berlin

Enough talk, action needed
Al-Sisi and Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday (photo: AFP)

Investments would be a stabilising factor for employment and energy supplies across Africa, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told attendees of the G20-Initiative Compact with Africa (CwA) summit in Berlin on Tuesday.

Al-Sisi said this positive impact would not be confined to Africa but would extend over the Mediterranean to European neighbours.

Europe and Africa, as much as they are different in economic and political conditions, share the common problem of illegal migration and extremism.

CwA was launched as a means to promote investment to the continent and support its economic development. CwA is a German initiative launched together with 12 African countries to promote private investment in Africa. In turn, African states would commit themselves to adopt certain economic reforms.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank are included in the initiative to advise African countries on policies needed to attract private investment, including fighting corruption. Egypt heads the summit this year as it chairs the African Union.

Talking to German television, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday asked members states of the G20 to send more investments to African countries to improve their living standards and help prevent illegal migration.

“We should do everything to cooperate with Africa, not to talk about Africa but to do something together,” she said.

While the initiative is meant to boost economic cooperation between Africa and G20 countries via joint projects, what has been accomplished since its launch in 2017 is not enough. According to Deutsche Welle, foreign investment in the 12 African countries which are part of the initiative has barely risen. From 2017 to 2018, foreign investment rose slightly to €21 million from €19 million — still below the level of 2016. Eighty per cent of this money went to just four countries: Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia and Ghana.

The 12 African countries included in the initiative are Benin, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia

Moreover, only 800 German companies are currently active in Africa, according to a study by the Allensbach Institute. Just five per cent of all remaining German companies plan to do business in the continent in the future.

“More transparency in Africa is essential so that German companies will have enough trust to invest there,” Merkel said in the interview.

Al-Sisi was due to have a one-on-one meeting with Merkel on Wednesday 20 November to discuss several topics, on top of which is Libya, according to a statement from the presidency. “Merkel is keen to know the president’s vision on the developments in Libya in light of Egypt’s role in the region and its chairmanship of the African Union this year,” according to Bassam Radi, the presidential spokesperson.

“Since Al-Sisi came to power he has exerted his utmost efforts to improve Egypt’s relations with Western countries. Accordingly, Egypt’s diplomatic and economic relations with European countries, among them Germany, have improved swiftly,” said political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

German leadership, according to Abu Taleb, believes in Egypt’s main role in stabilising the Middle East and Africa especially in combating terrorism and illegal migration.

Al-Sisi met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday at the Presidential Palace in Berlin. He also met business leaders and heads of major German industrial companies as part of Egypt’s strategy to encourage investment. Eckart von Klaede, vice president and head of External Affairs at Daimler AG, Mercedes Benz’s parent company, was one of those who met the president. In September, the leading car manufacturer selected its manufacturing partner for local assembly of passenger cars in Egypt.

The president also met a delegation from the Federation of German Security and Defence Industry. The meeting shed light on means of cooperation in security and military affairs in light of the expertise of German companies in this field.

The meeting also touched on the prospects of diversifying military cooperation between the two sides, including the launching of joint manufacturing projects in Egypt, especially in light of the available and promising capabilities of the Ministry of Military Production and the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation.

Besher Abdel-Fattah, an economist at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said that the annual trade volume between Egypt and Germany — €5.5 billion in exports — are likely to grow in light of the positive economic outlook for Europe. He added that Germany is interested in working with Egypt in areas of renewable energy.

Moreover, according to Abdel-Fattah, Germany is interested in supporting African economies as a whole because Africa is an important market for Germany and is a source of raw materials.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


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