German government leaders on simultaneous African visits | Africa | DW | 11.10.2016
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German government leaders on simultaneous African visits

German chancellor Angela Merkel and her foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have been visiting Africa at the same time. Top of their agendas were migration, security and investment.

Afrika Steinmeier in Nigeria (DW/A. Kriesch)

Geoffrey Onyeama (right) and Frank Walter Steinmeier (fifth from the left) in Abuja

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described Nigeria as the "powerhouse" of Africa as he embarked on his one day trip to the country. Nigeria was not only rich in natural resources, but also the most populous nation on the continent with about 180 million inhabitants, he noted. 

But Africa's "powerhouse" is facing enormous problems. Steinmeier experienced this first hand. As he got into the elevator on his way to meet his Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, on the eighth floor, there was a power failure. No lights - this is rather common here the Nigerians told him, as the in-house generators were switched on. The two foreign ministers later discussed Nigeria's economic woes, terrorism, corruption and the refugee crises. 

No concrete solution to migration

Libyen - Flüchtlinge auf überladenem Boot warten auf Rettung

Many young Nigerians risk their lives crossing the Medeiterranean

The issue of migration topped Steinmeier's agenda in Nigeria, much as it dominated Chancellor Angela Merkel three-day trip across three African countries, While Merkel urged the heads of government in the transit countries of Mali and Niger to curb migration flows, Steinmeier was visiting a country from which migrants originated. According to the European border authority, Frontex, some 22,713 Nigerians crossed illegally to Europe via the Libyan route, between January and August 2016. Oil-rich Nigeria ranks first on this migration route, ahead of Eritrea.

"I know that you encourage your people to stay in Nigeria and not to go on this dangerous journey across the Mediterranean," Steinmeier told the Nigerian foreign minister.  As far as migration to Europe was concerned, "there is no magic solution at the moment," Onyeama said. He added that migration to Europe was not an issue in domestic Nigerian politics or in the media. The government's priorities were the causes of migration, which included economic hardship, insecurity and the educational situation. 

Emergency aid for terror-hit northeast

Nigeria Stadt Borno State

Boko Haram terrorists have displaced many people in northeast Nigeria who are now in dire need of humantarian aid

Steinmeier pledged further support for Nigeria in its efforts to combat Boko Haram and shore up security in the northeast of the country,  The Nigerian military has been relatively successful in fighting the insurgency in the last few months, but the humanitarian crisis in the afflicted region is worsening. More than two million people have been internally displaced.  UNICEF has warned that 400,000 children under the age of five  are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition and as a consequence has issued an urgent appeal for funds. Prior to her trip to Africa, Chancellor Merkel also alluded to underfunded UN projects in the Lake Chad region for which Steinmeier has now pledged a further two million euros ($2.2 million).  This year alone, the German Foreign Ministry is spending 18.7 million euros on humanitarian projects in the region. Next year, it is expected to fund a police training program. Observers in Nigeria have often said that the military is overstretched that the police in the northeast are barely able to carry out their duties, not even in the areas retaken from Boko Haram.

New friends in Africa

Despite the challenges facing the "powerhouse," Steinmeier remains optimistic about the future, He points to the recent democratic transition of power to a new government and resolute efforts to combat both Boko Haram and corruption. Relations between Nigeria and Germany were also excellent as demonstrated by the many bilateral visits including the third session of a binational commission which took place during Steinmeier's trip.  Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will meet Chancellor Merkel in Berlin at the end of the week. Government-sponsored meetings between experts from both countries have been in progress since 2011. Steinmeier said  many projects have been launched, though they not been widely publicizedc.

"We note that Germany has Africa on its radar," Nigeria's foreign minister said, praising the bilateral cooperation. "This couldn't have happened soon enough," said Abdulkadir Bin Rimdap, a former Nigerian ambassador to Germany.  "Germany was once ranked third in the league table of leading economic nations, now it has slipped down to fifth place. So you should be looking for new friends in Africa," the diplomat observed  Fewer than 90 German companies were currently active in Africa's most populous country in Africa. This was neither good for Germany nor for Nigeria.


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