It was a moment of goodbye: At the conclusion of the Compact with Africa (CwA) conference on Friday, a good dozen African heads of state used the opportunity to wish German Chancellor Angela Merkel farewell before she leaves office after the federal election at the end of September.
During her tenure, Merkel has been personally involved in economic and social development in sub-Saharan Africa, often putting economy, health and education issues on the agenda along with development opportunities for women and girls.
‘Germany in the lead in supporting Africa’
“Africa has really gained leadership [with her help], and Germany has taken the lead in supporting Africa,” Guinean President Alpha Conde told DW when asked to take stock of Merkel’s Africa policy. “Not only with the Compact, but also with the African Renewable Energy Initiative, Germany has made a very big contribution.”
Moussa Faki, the chairman of the African Union Commission, praised Merkel and her Compact with Africa initiative. “It is an important initiative,” said Faki. “Africa needs investment for its development, but Africa also needs investment in peace and security. This is a prerequisite for the fate of the African continent today.”
Merkel succeeded in giving “an important impetus to Germany’s presence in Africa,” he said. “I welcome that! You have to strengthen this partnership between Africa and Europe, between Africa and Germany.”
‘We will miss you’
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also thanked Merkel during the summit, saying, “We will greatly miss you.” Merkel’s contribution, he said, had led to many things developing in favor of the continent.
CwA was launched in 2017 under Germany’s G20 presidency. The aim of the initiative is to improve investment conditions in African countries and boost the economy. It includes Egypt, Ethiopia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.
Much potential in Africa
During the summit, Merkel called for significantly more investment, but also reforms on Europe’s neighboring continent. “Africa has so much market potential, but it also needs to be better exploited,” she said Friday.
One focus, she said, must be on renewable energies. “Their expansion is of enormous importance for us to actually achieve our global climate goals,” she said.
South Africa’s Ramaphosa emphasized the increased need for capital that African countries have as a result of the coronavirus crisis. He also added that Africa is dissatisfied with the continent’s access to international capital markets.
Merkel also called for more commitment to independent production of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, saying they were also key to boosting the economy.
African Union countries import 99% of their vaccines, according to the community. While nearly 60% of the population in the world’s richer countries had been vaccinated against COVID-19 at least once, only about 2% of the population in Africa has been vaccinated — a figure which Merkel described as a “dramatic injustice.”
She said the first concrete projects were underway to develop vaccine production in countries such as Rwanda, Senegal and, above all, South Africa. She also stressed that Germany would be able to give the international vaccination initiative COVAX not just 30 million vaccine doses this year, but 70 million.
For Merkel, the economic well-being of the continent is linked to the availability of vaccines. And that is something she did not fail to point out once more at what was probably her last Compact with Africa conference.