Conflicts, wars and catastrophes are the images most Germans have of Africa. However keywords such as 'partnership' and 'potential' dominated the first German development day held in Bonn. Is this Africa's new image?
Germany's first ever development day held on Saturday (25.05.2013) under the theme “Your commitment, our future”, saw more than 550 organizations, institutions and associations taking part.
"We have incorporated Africa into Germany's Development Day, since the African Union is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary," Bernd Krupp, director of global engagement, the development organization which manages programs and initiatives of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, told DW. The group also organized the event.
In 2012 Berlin committed about one billion euros ($1.3 billion) for development cooperation with Sub-Saharan countries according to the Federal government. "It is important to show Africa as a continent of opportunity rather than a continent of catastrophes," Gudrun Kopp, parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry said.
“We should also point to the fact that of the 54 African countries, many have shown tremendous growth and this in turn provides jobs for young people," Kopp added.
Africa will experience an economic growth rate of 6.1 percent according to the International Monetary Fund 2014 forecast.
Same continent, different faces
For most of the Development Day's participants, it was a chance to widen their impression of the continent. Past images of starving, emaciated African children, were replaced by happy African children finally going to school because of a successful development program. The message is no longer "these people need our help," but "these people have received our help." 11-year-old Miriam who attended the event held in the centre of Bonn told DW, her main wish was that “children always have something to eat, a decent roof over their heads and decent clothes.”
A coalition of 24 organizations known as "Together for Africa" says it wants to do more than just bringing to attention Africa potential. They support African women with small loans. A program that is running well according to Maike Just the coalition spokesperson. “We could give a small credit to a woman to buy a sewing machine and in the long term she can become independent." In Just’s view, projects that provide assistance to self-help work best.
The organizers stated that they wanted visitors to not only know about Africa but also hear from Africa. With their visible red noses, a visiting acting group from South Africa's clown school life thrilled the audience by inviting them to dance along.
Jackline Daris, a Kenyan student in Bonn and member of Neema International, an organization that cares for underprivileged children in Kenya says they use their collections to send children in Nairobi's slums to school.
"We feel very privileged to live here and we want to give something back to our society."
Germany's Development Day is an opportunity for organizations to show what they are doing in Africa - and for others to see how they can get involved. Although the aim of the event was to show the potential that Africa has and the positive development that has taken place in the continent, the message that "Africa still needs help" remains.