Africa: Continent of Opportunity – Shaping Change Together

The BMZ’s Africa policy in dialogue

Flagship Forum| 11 September 2014 | Cafe Moskau, Berlin, Germany

The economies of many African countries are showing rapid growth, and many achieving notable development victories. Yet in the media of industrialised countries, the image of “Africa: continent in crisis” persists. On September 11 in Berlin, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr Gerd Müller, M. Matata Ponyo Mapon, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and around 300 participants came together under the “Africa: Continent of Opportunity – Shaping Change Together” motto to discuss successes and challenges in Africa and define what Germany’s contribution to development should be. At the event organised by the GIZ’s Development Policy Forum on behalf of the BMZ, recommendations were developed that will integrated into the BMZ’s Africa policy.

Following the welcoming address by Günter Nooke, the German Chancellor’s Personal Representative for Africa and the BMZ’s Commissioner for Africa, Federal Minister Müller spoke about the “modern Africa” he had come to know during his travels. The cityscape of the Nigerian metropolis Lagos, he found, was comparable to that of any other large city in Asia or the USA. Of the ten nations achieving the highest rate of economic growth worldwide, seven were in Africa, according to Müller.

Minister Müller named the fight against the effects of climate change on food security as the paramount challenge facing African countries. By the year 2030, hunger needed to be eliminated on a global scale, he stipulated, and Germany would contribute to this goal through the “ONEWORLD without Hunger” Special Initiative. As part of the initiative, the BMZ had selected African countries as so-called excellence centres in which rural development would be intensely targeted, Müller explained, adding that Africa could not continue to be forced to import around 30 billion euros in food each year. Prime Minister M. Matata Ponyo Mapon thanked Minister Müller for the support Germany provided his country and other African nations. Ponyo: “Africa needs partners like Germany.” The Prime Minister presented some of his country’s development success stories before criticising the lack of attention to these on the part of the international community, especially in the media. Africa was moving forward in its development, he noted, but additional support was needed, such as in reaching the UN Millennium Goals.

Then Parliamentary State Secretary at the BMZ, Thomas Silberhorn, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Erastus J.O. Mwencha, Managing Director of Oxfam Deutschland, Marion Lieser, the President of the Association of German Machinery and Plant Manufacturers, Dr Reinhold Festge, the Nigerian State Minister at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Bashir Yuguda, and the Governor of Nigerian Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, talked about the role of German ODA for development in Africa.

Erastus J.O. Mwencha formulated a positive vision for Africa in 2063. By this time, he posited, the African community of nations would have set its own agenda and be driving its own development, and industrialisation would also be well advanced. The nations’ rich resources would contribute to the African continent’s leading role in the global economy by mid-century.

Marion Lieser remarked that the skill of African partners had developed rapidly over the past decades. Civil society, she added, was growing and increasingly gaining political influence.

Ibikunle Amosun also stipulated that Africa needed to “tell its own story” so as counteract widespread prejudices, noting that an “African voice” was still lacking. Amosun also called for more vocational training to ensure economic progress continued.

Dr Reinhold Festge clearly stated that the German private sector was ready to invest in Africa, rejecting the allegation that German companies were holding back as incorrect. He explained that political support was needed to further increase willingness to invest. This did not refer to funding, however, but to assistance in obtaining work permits and visa for African countries for example. According to Festge, legal security for German firms in Africa needed to be increased as well. At the same time, the existing formalities in Germany needed rethinking, Festge claimed, explaining that African professionals were not granted permission to train in Germany.

Lastly, three working groups were formed to discuss about peace and security, youth and education, and regional integration. The groups developed recommendations which were presented to State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn. On the topic of peace and security, one recommendation was to increase support to existing institutions such as the African Union to proactively prevent crises. For education the suggestion was made to more forcefully promote professional training measures and involve the diaspora more intensely to counteract the lack of skilled professionals. On the issue of regional integration, compliance with unified standards and norms was suggested as a way to increase export opportunities for African products.

Impressions of the event

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