Africa is one the main items on the G8 agenda. In the run-up to the summit, Germany's chancellor told the Africa Partnership Forum in Berlin on Tuesday that Europe had a special responsibility to help the continent.
Chancellor Merkel welcomes Denmark's Prime Minister Rasmussen and Botswana's President Mogae to the Africa Partnership Forum
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen opened the Africa Partnership Forum in Berlin on Tuesday.
The two-day meeting is looking at how the G8 can help the world's poorest continent. It will "make recommendations for the preparations for the G8 and African Union summits," the German government said.
The initiative was established in 2003 in the aftermath of the G8 summit in Evian, France in a bid to encourage dialogue between Africa and the world's wealthiest nations. This year, it comes just two weeks ahead of the summit of the Group of Eight most industrialized nations in Heiligendamm, Germany, where Merkel is due to unveil new initiatives to fight poverty in Africa.
Recognizing Africa's potential for business
On Monday, the chancellor had met with German business leaders in Berlin and urged them to invest more in Africa.
"Whoever accepts Africa as an investment location today will reap the rewards tomorrow," Merkel told the group of high-ranking managers, including the chief executives of automaker Volkswagen and telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom. The meeting was also attended by representatives from medium-sized businesses, trade groups and international organizations.
Some German companies, such as BMW, have invested in Africa
"Africa is a continent with an unbelievable development potential," Merkel said.
The meeting at the chancellery discussed investment opportunities in Africa, as well as good governance and ways to integrate the continent in the global economy. Merkel said she and business leaders agreed that political efforts to improve government in Africa should be coordinated with economic activities.
Support of reform-minded African countries
In a parallel meeting, the German World Bank Forum opened in Berlin on Monday. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said that Africa received only two percent of worldwide direct investment at present.
Wieczorek-Zeul speaks to African leaders at the World Bank Forum
"That is not enough," Wieczorek-Zeul said. "Germany and the G8 are supporting reform-minded Africa countries through a partnership for development aimed at creating the basis for an increase in sustainable investment: good governance, an adequate infrastructure and combating corruption."
The two-day World Bank Forum is hosted by the German Development Ministry and the World Bank.
Nobel peace laureate Muhammad Yunus said at the close of the forum on Tuesday that he hoped for a transformation at the World Bank less than a week after the organization's current president Paul Wolfowitz announced he would resign. The World Bank should be turned into "a bank for the poor" with the aim of ultimately diminishing poverty worldwide, Yunus said.
G8 summit could send Africa a new message
The G8 summit two years ago in Gleneagles, Scotland pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010. But it is expected that Merkel will place the emphasis more on investment rather than cash hand-outs.
"Germany intends to increase its development aid to Africa, but the G8 summit in Heiligendamm is above all supposed to send a different signal," the business daily Handelsblatt said in an editorial on Tuesday.
"It is stressed in German government circles that Africa can only make progress with the help of private capital and good governance," the paper wrote.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair last month conceded that the G8 has fallen behind on its aid pledges.
African leaders who have been invited to the G8 summit include Nigeria's incoming president Umaru Yar'Adua, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Ghana's John Kufuor.