German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to begin a tour of three West African countries, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria, with efforts to boost economic ties and try to streamline the immigration to Europe.
The three-day visit will begin in Senegal on Wednesday will mark Germany’s belated growing interest in parts of Africa and preoccupation with the flow of undocumented arrivals in the European Union.
“Africa has many conflicts and some people are fleeing very, very difficult conditions,” Merkel said.
“But we also know, on the other hand, that African countries could be a good market down the line. Other countries are already very active here.”
Merkel believes that Senegal, Nigria and Ghana have a big role to play but they face huge hurdles that are currently limiting their capability.
“German industry only ranks 11 of all investors on the African continent,” he said. “Trade with Austria is three times higher than with the whole African continent.”
Germany’s foreign trade with sub-Saharan Africa amounted to about $30bn last year, according to Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) – the country’s economic development agency.
However, imports from sub-Saharan Africa accounted for only 1.1 percent of total foreign trade in 2017, similar to the year before.
“Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to these three countries is a show that Germany is much more interested in the continent,” Kappel said.
Last year, Germany launched two programs for cooperation with the continent: compact with Africa, an initiative to promote private investment in infrastructure; and the Marshall Plan with Africa, a proposal to rewrite Germany’s aid relationship with Africa.
George Kibala Bauer, a Congolese-German contributing editor at Africa is a Country online publication, told Al Jazeera that Merkel’s recent interest in Africa was the result of a considerable political pressure against her, including from her own political allies, for her perceived open-migration policy.
“This is not only morally questionable but also practically misguided,” he said.
Merkel has found in Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger’s president who was re-elected in 2016 after winning a controversial runoff, a key partner in her efforts to curb irregular migration to Europe, pledging millions of dollars to his government.
She also supports the European Union’s proposal to build detention centres in North Africa, where migrants would be processed. The EU plan, details of which remain scant, has been condemned by international human rights groups and UN officials.
Bauer said the EU has increasingly empowered third world countries, and effectively outsourced certain tasks to states in Sahel and Eastern parts of Africa.
“The Geneva Convention and German law grants every asylum seeker the right to a fair trial to determine his asylum status. As the outsourcing process becomes increasingly prevalent, this right will be put in jeopardy,” he said.
“From a human rights perspective, outsourcing has often meant that EU funds have effectively empowered state security services in countries such as Niger, Libya and Sudan, which have a track record of human rights violations.”
On her tour, Merkel is expected to discuss migration prevention with the leaders of Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria, where a large portion of African migrants arriving in Germany originate from.
The chancellor hopes to find a way to prevent them from starting their journeys, including providing more development aid to their countries.
Bauer said: “It is surprising and disappointing to many that Europe spends such degree of energy and resources on deterring migration”.
“Many young people are also dismayed that many European leaders fail to recognize the contribution that migrants can make in their societies,” he added.
“Countries such as Senegal and Nigeria themselves host migrant communities from neighboring countries. Many African countries host more migrants and asylum seekers as a proportion of their population than European countries currently do.”
By contrast, Mehler added, democratic but “difficult and self-confident” Nigeria would not accept “chequebook diplomacy”. German money would not be able to make a difference for Nigeria’s large population anyway, he said.
“Nigeria, a giant on feet of clay, does not need or get German development assistance,” Mehler said.
Kappel said Merkel might try to offer military assistance instead in the form of Germany providing training for the Nigerian army as the country battles the Boko Haram armed group in the north.
“If Nigeria is more stable, then it contributes to stabilizing the whole Sahel region and that will reduce the refugee problem for the European Union,” he said.
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Moses is a freelance writer for Newslibre and Programs Associate at the Uganda Child Cancer Foundation. He loves writing about sports, politics and news around the globe and Inspiring new young people!!