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Foreign policy

Germany lacks an Africa strategy

by Hans Dembowski
The German government needs a coherent approach to sub-Saharan Africa. According to a recent research paper published by the policy think tank SWP, policymakers should emphasise the promotion of peace and effective statehood, control of migration and protection of biological diversity.

The European Union’s Strategy for Africa (2005) basically points in the right direction, according to Stefan Mair and Denis M. Tull of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). The two scholars praise the fact that the EU does not just focus on more official development assistance (ODA), but stresses peace and good governance as structural requirements that need to be met for development to happen. In terms of implementation, however, the researchers’ verdict is “still no major progress”.

As their publication points out, the countries that show particular commitment to EU-Africa affairs are France, Britain and Portugal, the former colonial powers. So far, Germany’s government has played a reactive role, responding to proposals advanced by these EU members. Berlin would need a coherent concept of its own, the SWP researchers say, to have an impact on EU policymaking. The authors state that Paris is still overly inclined to pursue French interests, and they blame London for almost exclusively focussing on more ODA. They argue that most EU members would welcome a stronger German role in EU-Africa affairs.

However, Mair and Tull describe Germany’s Africa policy as “neither strategically nor conceptually sufficiently defined”. The German call for finding civil solutions to conflicts would be more convincing, they state, if Bundeswehr soldiers were more willingly made available for joint military missions. At present, partners often consider Germany’s emphasis on civilian engagement a lame excuse.

Where the authors see particularly marked conceptual shortcomings in German policy is in protection of biological diversity and migration control – issues with a direct bearing on German interests.

Mair and Tull explicitly exclude the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) from the criticism of lack of direction. They praise the concepts of development policy, as well as the special attention BMZ is paying to the two regional heavyweights South Africa and Nigeria. They also approve of the BMZ’s focus on good governance, economic growth, water and peace/security.

Somewhat implausibly, however, Mair and Tull regard governance and stability as matters for the Foreign Office rather than the BMZ. The authors themselves identify peace and effective statehood as prime requirements for progress, and they warn of the risk of raising exaggerated expectations by stepping up development aid for poverty reduction. Accordingly, the BMZ is right to pay attention to the bedrock on which development depends. (dem)