Chancellor Merkel begins her tour of sub-Saharan Africa on Wednesday, Oct 3. Her visit is to focus on a range of issues, including human rights, AIDS, economic cooperation and the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
South Africa has an estimated 662,000 children orphaned through AIDS
Deutsche Welle spoke about Merkel's agenda on the Africa tour with Dominic Johnson, an editor at Germany's taz newspaper and an expert on Africa.
Deutsche Welle: Why did German Chancellor Angela Merkel choose to go to Ethiopia, South Africa and Liberia?
Dominic Johnson: South Africa is the most obvious choice -- it is the most important trading partner for Germany in Africa. President Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, attended the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in June. South Africa is going to host the Soccer World Cup in 2010 and there is a lot of cooperation between Germany and South Africa on that. So, South Africa is the natural place to go for a German chancellor.
Ethiopia is fairly obvious as well. It is the head of the African Union, the seat of the African Union Commission, where Merkel will visit. It has become an obligatory stop for every German politician who goes to Africa. German President Horst Köhler was there recently, and cooperation is quite close.
German Chancellor Merkel
Liberia is maybe less obvious. It is a small country in West Africa, not particularly important, but it is the only African country headed by a woman [President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] and Chancellor Merkel is the only female head of government in Europe, so in a way, when the most powerful woman in Europe goes to meet the most powerful woman in Africa. It's a highly symbolic moment.
There's a large German business delegation that will be accompanying Merkel, but surely business issues will not be the only ones on the agenda?
They won't be the only ones, but I think they'll be quite important, even though they aren't being flagged at the moment. It's already been announced that, following this Africa trip, the German government will try to call an African economic summit to try to encourage German businesses, especially small businesses, to invest in Africa, and we know that South Africa and Liberia are looking for more investments for reconstruction.
What are some of the other issues that will be discussed?
One of them will be development aid. The chancellor has said she will visit development projects in all three countries. She mentioned her upcoming Africa visit during her speech at the UN Global Fund to Fight Aids conference in Berlin last week and she made it clear that this is important to her as well. So, there will be a lot of the traditional development issues, but there will also be a lot of business items on the agenda during talks. And, of course, Germany is still the president of the G8, so it still has a political role to play and will be looking at Liberia's foreign debt and cooperation with the African Union as a whole.