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Africa summit in Berlin: lack of eye level

The federal government hopes for green hydrogen and is promoting more private investment in Africa. But whether they help on site is controversial.

Kenyan President William Ruto (left) and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) smile at each other, several national flags in the background

One of the guests in Berlin: Kenya’s President William Ruto and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) Photo: Filip Singer/epa/Pool/dpa

BERLIN taz | Germany wants to rely more on Africa when it comes to energy issues and the production of green hydrogen. “Africa is our dream partner when it comes to intensifying our economic relations and taking the common path towards a climate-neutral future,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

Private investments by German companies in African countries should also be strengthened, emphasized Scholz on Monday at a joint summit of the G20 countries with 13 African countries as part of the “Compact with Africa” (CwA) initiative, in German: “Pact with Africa”. .

The initiative was launched in 2017 as part of the German G20 presidency and, according to the federal government, is intended to ensure that more foreign investment flows through “improvements to the economic framework” in African countries. 13 countries on the African continent now belong to the group of states: Egypt, Ethiopia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, and Tunisia. Other states are interested in joining.

Reforms of the countries’ economic systems should also make them more attractive to investors, such as tax reforms or joining investment protection agreements that allow companies to sue states if their laws prevent profits. When the Merkel government launched the plan in 2017, it was also “Marshall Plan for Africa” called.

NGOs criticize goal setting

In January the current federal government had its Africa strategy updated and talked more about partnerships with civil society and community institutions in Africa. Scholz emphasized that the Compact partnership was working. “In terms of economic development, the Compact countries perform above average compared to Africa as a whole.” Foreign direct investment has recently increased massively in the countries.

“The federal government repeatedly emphasizes that the discussions at Compact with Africa take place on equal terms,” says Anne Jung from Medico International. She takes a critical view of this and questions the partnership nature of the initiative: From medico’s point of view, it shows that “it’s not about eye level at all.” The Compact has a “strong expectation of reforms in the tax and financial system”, for example that export taxes are reduced. “In countries with a large informal sector, income from export taxes is a very important source of income for the state,” says Jung.

She is also critical of the privatizations that often accompany the agreement. In the social area, these often do not bring any improvement: “Then there might be more private clinics, but in the state health sector – on which poor people depend – there is a lack of skilled workers,” says Jung.

Stanley Achonu, Nigeria director of the development organization One, contradicts this: “Investments in the private sector create sustainable jobs, while the government does not create enough jobs,” says Achonu. He is committed to ensuring that Nigeria also becomes part of the Compact states. “I think the reforms that are being called for are positive for the people of Nigeria,” said Achonu.

Anne Jung from medico international, on the other hand, wishes: “One demand would be that Land grabbing to stop the cultivation of grain, for example for biofuel, until food sovereignty is restored.”

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