German Chancellor Angela Merkel has underscored the importance of combating poverty in Africa as a way to stem the mass migrant flow to Europe. Merkel has made ties with Africa the focus of Germany's G20 presidency.
The leaders of the African Union from Guinea, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Mali, Ghana, Tunisia, Rwanda and other nations met in Berlin to discuss a so-called "compact with Africa." The initiative seeks to team up African nations which have committed to economic reforms with private investors who would then bring jobs and businesses.
"Positive development in the world will not work unless all continents participate," Merkel said in Berlin. "We need an initiative that does not talk about Africa, but with Africa."
Germany's Finance Ministry announced on Monday that it agreed partnerships with Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Ghana as part of a planned investment of up to 300 million euros ($335 million) to help African nations.
Fighting poverty to stop mass migration
Underscoring the pressure African countries face, Merkel contrasted Germany's average age of 43 with the average age in Niger and Mali of 15.
"If we don't give young people any prospects, if we don't invest in education and qualifications, if we don't strengthen the role of girls and young women, the development agenda won't succeed," she said.
Berlin is seeking to alleviate poverty particularly in African countries whose citizens have been among the hundreds of thousands of people who have arrived in Germany as asylum-seekers over the past two years. Last year, Germany took in around 890,000 migrants, thousands of whom came from African countries including Eritrea, Ghana and Ethiopia.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said the solution to mass migration "lies in the massive creation of jobs through strong and inclusive economic growth," adding that "young Africans will feel better in Africa than elsewhere."
Upping security role
Merkel also said that other industrialized countries should be more open to transferring weapons to African nations as part of their development aid so that those countries can more easily combat militant groups.
"For many years, we felt good when we didn't focus on military equipment ... But we have to be honest - only where security is ensured can development take place," she said at the opening of a G20 conference on Africa in Berlin.
Merkel pledged German support for a French plan to authorize a West African force to battle terrorism in the Sahel region in Mali and other neighboring countries.
Monday's G20 conference on Africa is taking place ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7 and 8.
rs/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)