G20 Africa Conference “Investing in a Common Future”

June 12/13, 2017 | G20-Conference | BMZ, Berlin, Germany

As part of Germany’s G20 presidency, the “G20 Africa Conference” was held in the Gasometer in Berlin on June 12-13, 2017. The motto of this political highlight of the G20 Africa Partnership was “investing in a common future”. The event featured political dialogue and highlighted perspectives on partnership with Africa and the “Compact with Africa” initiative developed under Germany’s G20 leadership.

Initiated by the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the conference was planned in close cooperation with the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Foreign Office. Around 800 participants attended the event organized by the GIZ’s Development Policy Forum.

German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel gave the opening address, which was followed by high-level dialogue among top political leaders. President of the Republic of Guinea and Chairman of the African Union (AU) Alpha Condé held a keynote address and the heads of state of Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal und Tunisia and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni also spoke.

A high-ranking panel met after the opening to discuss the “Compact with Africa”, including federal ministers Dr Wolfgang Schäuble and Dr Gerd Müller, the finance ministers of Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ruanda, Tunisia and Marrocco, Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde, President of the African Development Bank Dr Akinwumi Adesina and World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim.

In her welcome address, German Chancellor Merkel emphasised Africa’s significance for Europe and outlined some basic principles of future cooperation with Africa. Her overall take on the direction international cooperation was moving was positive: “The Agenda 2030 is a great achievement, because all the countries on our planet have agreed on a common pathway for development.”

Accordingly, the Chancellor emphasised a commitment to parity in future partnerships, adding “we need an initiative through which we don’t speak about Africa, but speak with Africa.” Italian Prime Minister and current G7 President Paolo Gentiloni welcomed Africa as the priority for the G20 process. He pointed to the continent’s tremendous economic potential and growing population, calling it the continent of the future. Gentiloni also stressed the importance of private sector investment in promoting sustainable growth.

The presidents of the African nations of Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia also expressed their support for the G20 initiative. In their speeches, they emphasised how distinct the challenges facing their respective countries were, and talked about what they hoped the “Compact with Africa” G20 initiative would ultimately achieve.

Egypt’s President Abdelfattah Al-Sisi praised Germany’s leading role, noting that the continuing upheaval in his country was having a negative impact on economic growth. He went on to highlight the importance of cooperation among countries and the involvement of the private sector.

In the panel discussion that followed, Federal Finance Minister Dr Wolfgang Schäuble introduced the G20 Presidency’s “Compact with Africa”. The goal of the initiative is to promote cooperation between African countries, international organisations and their respective bilateral partners to improve the framework conditions for private sector investment.

The ultimate success of the venture, Schäuble noted, would depend on the measures take nby the African countries involved: “Independent implementation by the countries of Africa will be the key to its success.”

“A new global situation requires new partnerships,” Federal Development Minister Dr Gerd Müller pointed out. Hunger, disease and the environment, he added, would continue to occupy and challenge the international community in the years to come. On a positive note, Müller asserted that a concerted approach to these policy fields would allow these challenges to be met.

Müller pointed to the important role of the industrialised nations, noting that the G20 countries were responsible for 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and consumed 90 percent of all resources. The Development Minister added that there was enough money to go around, but investment needed focus on sustainable approaches. Global standards for value creation chains that would ensure a fair process of globalization would help, according to Minister Müller.

The second day of the conference focused on investment and framework conditions for development in Africa. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann emphasised the leading role played by the African partner countries in the “Compact with Africa”: “Our African partners are at the wheel.”

In the breakout sessions that followed, participants discussed the prerequisites for attracting investment, and how to channel investment into sustainable business areas. GIZ Management Board Chair Tanja Gönner talked about “investment in fragile states” with African investors, the former head of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka, and State Secretary Walter J. Lindner from the Federal Foreign Office. The conversation centred on attracting investment in fragile states to promote stability and prevent them from falling even further behind economically.

There was general agreement that fragile states in particular needed investors to help break the vicious cycle of poverty and violence. The discussion on the conditions private investment had to fulfil in order to promote sustainable economic development was more controversial. Investment that reinforced a country’s role as a source of raw materials was widely criticized, while the importance of investment in agriculture was highlighted to ensure food security for local populations and promote positive income development.

Because each conflict was different in nature, conference participants agreed that any approach needed to be custom-tailored for each respective country. Tanja Gönner noted: “We have a lot of tools at our disposal. But not everyone is aware of them. So we need to enter into political dialogue with our partner countries to identify the right tools for the right context.”

Author: Frederik Caselitz

Impressions of the event

Picture above: Group photo as the kick-off to the G20 Africa Conference in Berlin. Photo: Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

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