Rewriting Europe’s Engagement in Africa
By admin June 9, 2017

In January of this year, the German government released a proposal for a “Marshall Plan with Africa.”  The tribute to the post-World War II Western European reconstruction program will likely take center stage at the G-20 African Partnership Conference hosted in Berlin this month in addition to the G20 summit in July

The plan, formally called “Africa and Europe—A New Partnership for Development, Peace, and a Better Future,” is a defining element of Germany’s “focus on Africa in 2017” and contains more than 100 reform suggestions organized under three pillars: “Economic activity, trade and employment; peace and security; and democracy and the rule of law.”

German Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development and Marshall Plan (2017) advocate, Gerd Müller, is not shy to highlight the room for growth and German opportunity in Africa. For example, of 400,000 German companies with international presence, only 1,000 had business in Africa. Supposedly, improving these statistics, mitigating rising unemployment, and decreasing corruption for investment protection should elevate Western incentives to interact with Africa and avoid leaving “Africa to the Chinese, Russians, and Turks.”

Another key element of the new development agenda is alleviating the issue of insufficient Official Development Assistance (ODA) by turning to the private sector. As the world’s third largest provider of ODA, Germany is aware that not all countries can match its contributions. Rather than relying on foreign aid, the Marshall Plan shifts towards a private investment model advancing that “it’s not subsidies that Africa needs so much as more private investment.”[1]

Germany’s stake in the Africa project is being marketed as an opportunity to stem immigrant flows from the continent. European logic holds that improving conditions in Africa will decrease incentives to emigrate, thus appeasing EU countries unsatisfied with free-movement policies and refugee inflows. Strengthening ties with African governments through economic channels may also increase German leverage in agreements for African States to repatriate citizens whose asylum applications have been denied.

Tinges of Cold War attitudes and the use of “sphere of influence” jargon have some critics weary that plan implementation will exacerbate global tension. Competition over Africa may characterize the next wave of development as China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) project continues to make headway. China’s new found international presence in the development arena is evidenced by an unofficial OBOR supplement; the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union “to connect all 54 African states through transportation and infrastructure projects.”

The future of the “Marshall Plan with Africa” is not certain as German leadership is subject to change in the September 2017 election. Additionally, an African pivot to Asia may not be successfully countered by European measures. However, as the focal point of the German G20 presidency Africa will remain a centerpiece of international meetings and perhaps dialogue will lead to collaborative solutions.


Read More:

Germany’s Marshall Plan with Africa

Atlantic Council: Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa

The African Link in China’s OBOR Initiative

German aid to Africa banks on private investment

Stemming Capital Flight in Africa

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