World Economy

Merkel Calls for Reducing Poverty in Africa Region

Positive development in the world will not work unless all continents participate and thus “we need an initiative that does not talk about Africa, but with Africa”
Merkel told the conference only where security is ensured can development take place.
Merkel told the conference only where security is ensured can development take place.

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.

Reducing poverty and conflict in Africa were the main topics raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday as she met with African leaders ahead of next month's Group of 20 summit, DW reported.

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 ($335 million) to help African nations.

Stopping 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 Military 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.

Merkel is hosting the initiative as part of Germany's presidency of the Group of 20 powerful economies, whose leaders meet in the northern port of Hamburg on July 7 and 8.

'Demographic Explosion'

 Merkel last year visited major transit countries Mali and Niger as well as Ethiopia, the seat of the African Union, and pledged €27 million ($30 million) in aid aiming to stop migrants heading for Europe in the first place, AFP reported.

"The well-being of Africa is in Germany's interest," Merkel said at the time.

Critics have dismissed the latest multilateral Africa initiative as a half-hearted effort without any aid commitment, but organizers say it could help boost prosperity and reduce the mass flight and brain drain, especially of young people.

Under the G20 "compacts" plan, an initial seven African nations will pledge reforms to attract more private sector investment.

Those countries will then receive technical support from the IMF, World Bank, other development institutions and their G20 partner country, which will also support the effort with its own companies.

Germany will team up with Ghana, Ivory Coast and Tunisia, while other G20 members will support efforts by Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda and Senegal.

More than 100 banks, companies and other potential investors are expected at the conference.

"This is not about hand-outs or just money or cheap money, but about the opportunity to attract investment, profits and jobs," said a German finance ministry official.


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