Berlin courts Africa

Doaa El-Bey , Saturday 30 Nov 2019

The G20 Africa initiative wrapped its third meeting in Berlin last week, reports Doaa El-Bey

Berlin courts Africa
Berlin courts Africa

Members of the G20 and African Union had a chance to hold meetings, strike deals and exchange opinions during the three-day Compact with Africa (CwA) summit. 

CwA was launched in 2017 as a means to promote investment in Africa, support economic development and tackle illegal migration and terrorism. It was initiated by Germany and 12 African countries that committed themselves to undertake specific economic reforms the better to attract investments from European companies. 

While economic and business deals dominated coverage of the summit discussions about regional problems, especially Libya, were also important. 

As chair of the African Union, Egypt went to the CwA summit with three main files: discussing regional political challenges, finding ways to boost African development and, on a mare bilateral level, increase investment and trade between Cairo and Berlin. 

Libya topped the agenda of the meeting of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the CwA.

Both leaders expressed their continued commitment to supporting a peaceful settlement in Libya, says Ali Al-Hefni, a former deputy to Egypt’s foreign minister.

“Only via a peaceful settlement that includes all parties will Libya be able to rebuild the state, arrange for elections and stabilise the country anew,” he said.

Libya was also discussed during Al-Sisi’s meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. 

Libya is a major transit country for Africans seeking to migrate to Europe across the Mediterranean. According to estimates by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Libya currently hosts between 700,000 and one million refugees.

CwA has long sought to encourage G20 members’ private sectors to more actively explore investment opportunities in Africa. In line with the Africa 2063 Agenda, one of President Al-Sisi’s focus points during the CwA summit was on ways to facilitate the integration of developing countries in the world economy.

“The most important asset in Africa is its young population. Young people make up 60 per cent of the continent’s 1.2 billion inhabitants, a figure likely to double by 2050. It is essential to invest in the continent’s human resources and provide young people with the training they need either to serve their countries, or fill jobs in developed countries. That is the only way to halt illegal migration,” argues Al-Hefni.
On the bilateral level the summit gave a further boost to Egyptian-German relations that have been growing closer for five years now.

“Since Al-Sisi came to power he has managed to improve Egypt’s relations with different world powers, including European countries, in general, and with Germany in particular,” says Al-Hefni.

Following Al-Sisi and Merkel’s meetings on the sidelines of the CwA Merkel said Egypt, as a fundamental pillar of stability and security in the region, is one of Germany’s most important partners in the Middle East, according to Egyptian Presidency Spokesperson Bassam Radi.

Al-Sisi also met with the speaker of the German parliament and a delegation from the German Federal Defence and Security Industries Federation (DFID). During the latter meeting prospects for diversifying military cooperation between the two countries were discussed.  

He attended the joint Egyptian-German Business Forum which aims to facilitate constructive dialogue between Egyptian and German companies in order to establish new joint projects.

The CwA summit saw the signing of bilateral agreements worth €300 million.

Two financial and technical cooperation agreements, worth €44.9 million, to finance projects in the fields of energy, the rehabilitation of schools, small and medium enterprises, urban infrastructure and the promotion of labour market access, were finalised.

A further €101 million worth of agreements covered private sector innovation, drinking water and sanitation management, solid waste management, social development and employment.

Last week’s two-day CwA summit in Berlin was attended by the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and other partners. 

The 12 countries that have joined the initiative, setting out their reform programmes within the framework adopted by G20 finance ministers in March 2017, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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