Ahead of his first trip to Africa as German president, Horst Köhler has called on the international community, including Germany, to considerably increase financial help for the struggling continent.
Wagging the finger at western countries' neglect of Africa
Köhler, who served as director of the International Monetary Fund before becoming Germany's head of state, said it was a matter of self-respect for Europeans to assist African nations generously in their struggle for more peace and democracy and against poverty.
Addressing an audience at the University of Tübingen in southwestern Germany, Köhler warned the industrialized world against neglecting the current problems in Africa. He demanded that the western world and Europe in particular step up their efforts to help African nations overcome their post-colonial problems.
Köhler, who will travel to Sierra Leone, Benin, Ethiopia and Djibouti next week, said that fair trade conditions were an important contribution in the fight against poverty in Africa. He added that westerners had to finally realize that the world cannot be divided into first, second or third class regions.
Aid in Europe's interest
African refugees aboard German aid ship Cap Anamur in Sicily in July
More development and humanitarian aid for Africa would also be in the interest of Europe. Security and peace in the industrialized world could not be maintained forever if the problems in Africa were being neglected or ignored.
"Africa is facing big problems and misery," he said. "But that’s only half the truth. During my travels in Africa I’ve also seen much confidence in the future and hope of a scale that you can’t even find in the rich countries in Europe where constant moaning and groaning is in the order of the day. I’ve seen a magnitude of development projects run by Africans who display a level of creativity not seen anywhere else."
The president called on the international community to help building up democratic institutions in African nations as a prerequisite for ensuring law and order. He said every euro spent on helping create independent courts was a euro well spent.
A South African AIDS orphan
"Civil societies are on the rise in many African countries," he said. "More and more people are no longer willing to put up with misery and corruption. There are pressure groups which follow very closely what the government is doing and have no fear of addressing mismanagement and wrongdoings. Women are on the move too, getting more and more involved in social life and important projects to combat AIDS and poverty.”
Köhler also praised the African Union’s endeavors to take Africa’s problems into its own hands.
African Union Logo
"I welcome the fact that the African Union has left behind the continent’s erstwhile principle of non-interference, when it comes to war crimes and genocide," he said. "It’s sending out a strong signal that Africa is willing to deal with its problems on a cross-border basis."
Köhler criticized western nations, Germany included, for not living up to its decades-old promise of allocating 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to development aid. Germany's goal is to increase aid to 0.33 percent by 2006. He also said that almost $100 billion (€75 billion) in additional global development aid funds would be required annually to fight poverty effectively -- only a tiny fraction of what the rich west spends on armaments every year.