During his first visit to Africa next week, the German chancellor will emphasize recent successes, like the creation of the African Union partnership and development programs aimed at helping the continent help itself.
Schröder will return a visit by Ghana's President Kufuor in 2002
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder sets off on Sunday for a week-long tour of Africa that will take him to Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. Schröder won’t be packing an entirely new Africa policy in his suitcase, but the chancellor and his delegation are poised to improve development cooperation, business ties and establish closer links with African leaders in the fight against international terrorism.
The unofficial motto of the trip is to help African nations so that they can better help themselves.
“We’ve moved away from bilateral support – a drop here and a drop there,” said Hans Büttner, the government's spokesman for Africa policy. “When you take a look at the results, you can see that we weren’t very successful. We’re now supporting initiatives that say, ‘We Africans have to take charge of more ourselves.’”
Refugees after a volcano eruption in Congo.
Most Germans tend to view Africa predominantly as a continent of never-ending conflicts, civil wars and corruption. This perception is not alien to politicians either. Schröder’s tour is designed to signal to leaders there that the German government does take note of the more positive developments on the continent in recent years.
Among the leading examples of African progress is the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), an initiative launched in 2001 by a number of African nations with the goal of creating an Africa capable of containing simmering conflicts and crises before they boil over into war. NEPAD also provides support for the creation of democratic structures in troubled areas.
A second example of Africa’s increasing self-reliance is the African Union, or AU, which, at least in principle, is comparable to the European Union. AU’s headquarters is located in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. This is one of the reasons that Schröder will be giving a major African policy speech in that city.
Government officials told Deutsche Welle that Schröder is expected to pledge strong support for those countries in Africa that show commitment to their own development.
The second stop on Schröder’s trip is Kenya.
"Kenya is the anchor of stability in East Africa – both in its function as the region’s economic center and as the center of the security architecture in East Africa as well in its role as active negotiating partner in helping to solve the problems in Somalia, Sudan and, partially, in the Congo," Büttner said.
In Kenya, Schröder is expected to offer German security experts to help train local police. He is also expected to reach agreement for closer cooperation between the German and Kenyan intelligence agencies in the fight against terrorism.
"We shouldn’t create any panic here, but it’s still the case that when ungoverned areas exist in Africa, and they do exist right now, then there are also possible areas for international terrorists to retreat to," said Andreas Mehler, director of the Institute of African Affairs in Hamburg. "We shouldn’t ignore this problem because someday it will come back to us."
Government sources told Deutsche Welle Schröder is to announce a doubling of Germany’s development aid for Kenya over the next two years.
Christening the Annan Center
Ghana is also an important partner for the German government in security issues. Schröder will be visiting the capital city of Accra to meet with President John Agyekum Kufuor and attend the opening of the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Center. At the center, named for the secretary general of the United Nations, African peacekeepers will be trained with Western aid for later deployment to crisis regions.
The final stop on Schröder’s trip is South Africa, which still remains Germany’s most-important partner on the African continent.
South Africa is important to us because "it is the strongest economic power that dominates and, at the same time, knows that it must help pull other states into the economic boom," Büttner said. That could come through development aid or greater economic integration, he added.
Berlin is also prepared to help them in this regard. Twenty three executives are traveling with the chancellor to Africa, most from medium-sized businesses that are interested in making investments in South Africa. German firms already employ more than 70,000 people in the country.