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How Germany's new government could impact young Africans

Ineke Mules
November 2, 2021

As coalition talks continue, DW's The 77 Percent asks young Africans if they expect — and want — a stronger collaboration between Germany and African countries.


Street Debate: What do Africans expect from the new German government?

It's young, developing and brimming with potential. Yet the African continent doesn't seem to feature prominently on Germany's foreign policy agenda.

Just over a month after Germany's much-anticipated federal election, coalition talks are still ongoing. Headline-grabbing issues like climate change and migration are on the agenda. But many young Africans are also keenly waiting for the outcome, with the new government expected to set the course for Germany-Africa relations in the years to come.

Germany-Africa relations at a glance

Many African states already consider Germany a reliable development partner, particularly in areas like agriculture and job creation.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel even made it her goal to foster a more equal playing field, reflected in the Compact with Africa program created during Germany's G20 presidency in 2017. Many meetings and handshakes later, 12 African countries have now signed up to the program, which aims to increase private investment.

Chancellor Ankela Merkel meets with African heads of states during the G20 Compact with Africa summit in Berlin in 2019
German Chancellor Ankela Merkel with African leaders during the 2019 G20 Compact with Africa summit in BerlinImage: Reuters/F. Bensch

But Lynda Iroulo from the GIGA Institute Hamburg says that despite Germany's efforts, the much-touted equal partnership is still very much one-sided.

"I think that the foreign policy towards Africa is still very much interventionist instead of collaborative," she told DW.

"There is an idea behind it [which is] Germany's ideology that is applied to the African continent to help create development."

A positive influence?

Although Germany's policies regarding Africa may not have lived up to everyone's expectations, Africa's large young population will still stand to gain a lot from Germany's partnerships on the continent — especially when it comes to education and opportunities.

"The German system can help boost sustainability," Arude Sonnia, a Germany-based Nigerian-born entrepreneur told DW.

"After their education [young Africans] can get an opportunity to go for exchange in voluntary programs which can help boost their CV and personal experiences."

Cindy Adjei, a member of the Young Socialists in the SPD, who has Ghanaian roots, thinks Germany can also help to foster a broader partnership with the European Union (EU).  

"The aim is to create a strong relationship between EU and Africa," she told DW. "As equal partners, African countries will have to set conditions and decide what they want to gain from the EU."

Fresh Craft Germany
Collaborations between German and African initiatives have given a boost to some young Africans pursuing a career in businessImage: Lucas Thiem

Overcoming hurdles still a struggle

Many young Africans who want to live in Germany for study or work still face many hurdles, particularly financial ones — something Arude says ultimately shuts too many young people out.

"[The laws] only give room to those who can afford it," she said. "The laws should not only favor the rich. Getting a visa to Germany is more like trying to fix an appointment with the president."

The issue of diversity — or lack of diversity — within the German government is also being called out by young people

"The new government is as diverse as ever before, but it is still not truly representative of German society," said Adjei.

Change on the horizon?

The big question now is: Will any of this change under Germany's next chancellor?

If recent history is anything to go by, there's still a long road ahead before the old power imbalance between Germany and its African counterparts will change, regardless of who is at the helm of the Bundestag.

Arude says young Africans living in Africa are hoping for some more flexibility from the new German government.

"They should give room to people looking forward to expanding their knowledge by being flexible in their immigration rules and regulations," she says. "If there are people who are willing to work and not become a burden for the government, then they should also try to see that these people get to stay."

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.