On the first stop of his six-day trip to Africa, Germany's chancellor pledged development aid, security aid and debt forgiveness to Ethiopia and other sub-Saharan nations.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wants an "honest partnership" with Africa.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder gave the first speech of his first official trip to Africa on Monday – highlighting political and development progress that has been made by countries on the continent. At the same time, Schröder acknowledged that it would take time before Africa can "shed ist image as the continent of wars and crises, of diseases and catastrophes."
Schröder is traveling to Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana in an effort to support African initiatives aimed at promoting peace and economic development.
In his speech in the Ethiopian city Addis Ababa, Schröder pledged an "honest partnership" between Europe and Africa aimed at working together "to achieve regional cooperation, peace and sustainable development."
"We are determined to help Africa tackle its serious problems, ranging from poverty and unemployment to epidemics and ethnic wars," he said. Indeed, millions of lives have been lost in armed conflicts in Africa, and the in-fighting has also served as spanner in the works for Africa's economic development.
"This is not only a moral imperative, but it also makes good political and economic sense," the chancellor said.
Hope for the future
Schröder met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and acknowledged Ethiopia’s role as the headquarters of the African Union, a nascent body that seeks to integrate African states in ways that mirror those of the European Union.
Schröder shares bread with the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Alpha Oumar Konare.
The African Union has brought with it hope for a new Africa – one that isn’t merely identified by crises, wars, illness and catastrophe. Germany has said it would provide €650,000 in seed funding for the development of the African Union. Schröder also said Germany would forgive €60 million in Ethiopian debts.
Fighting terrorism and strife
Schröder said that security and the fight against terrorism are also important pillars in the German-African relationship. "No one can live in security if there is insecurity and strife in the neighborhood," he said. "State and continental borders are incapable of holding at bay not just armed conflict, failing states, poverty and underdevelopment, but also epidemics and influxes of refugees."
The chancellor reiterated his support for the Africa Action Plan of the G8, the group the world’s biggest industrial powers, for conflict resolution and crisis prevention in Africa. To that end, the German government is subsidizing the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Center in Accra, Ghana; the training center of the Nairobi Peace Initiative in Kenya; and the future European Union Peace Facility for Africa.
Small businesses seek to invest in Africa
Germany is also seeking to provide economic stimulus for African nations. Schröder hopes to fuel economies through initiatives with German businesses – not multinationals, but small and medium-sized businesses that are seeking to gain a foothold in Africa. Berlin is seeking bilateral investor protection treaties that will build trust of investors interested in putting money into African countries. On Monday, Ethiopia was expected signed the first deal.
Schröder said Germany also wanted to help increase peace and economic progress in Africa by helping countries improve their professional training and to gain access to a functioning health system as well as drinking water, which is in many areas in short supply and the subject of turf wars.
"Our joint efforts to achieve security and peace are doomed to failure if they do not also include the fight against hunger and poverty, the containment of AIDS and other diseases, as well as the preservation of our natural resources," said Schröder.
Schröder also called for patience as Africa journeys forth on the road ahead. "We all know that changes require time. This also holds true for Africa," Schröder said. "I would like to emphasize how highly particularly we Germans value the readiness of Africans to take on more responsibility for their own future."