Building capacity to help Africa trade better

G20 Africa Partnership Conference: Speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel


G20 Africa Partnership Conference: Speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel

G20 Africa Partnership Conference: Speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Photo credit: B20 Germany

G20 Africa Part­ner­ship – Investing in a Common Future Con­fer­ence

On 12-13 June 2017, the German G20 Presidency gathered together Heads of States and Ministers of African countries, Ministers and Deputies of interested G20 and other partner countries, Heads and representatives of International Organisations, private sector investors, and experts on Africa to strengthen the dialogue and partnership between African and G20 decision-makers. Central to the conference was the G20 finance track initiative, Compact with Africa, which aims to increase private investment, including in infrastructure, in Africa.

Africa has tremendous potential, being the youngest continent in the world. By 2035, more than half of young people entering the global labour market will be in Africa. This offers a promise of more jobs, higher incomes, and greater prosperity going forward. However, Africa faces challenges to reaching this potential, keeping the poor and giving rise to greater political and economic instability, migration pressures, violence, and terrorism.

Sharing a common objective of a stable and dynamic continent, Africa and the rest of the international community agreed that a partnership is necessary. The conference highlighted the key elements of the Compact with Africa initiative: (1) a demand-driven and open process that emphasizes African ownership; (2) a closer dialogue and better coordination among all stakeholders; and (3) collective action, building on strong commitments from all sides to create the right framework conditions for private investment.

The official website for the Compact with Africa initiative was launched during the conference.

Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 Africa Partnership Conference, 12 June 2017

Some of you have travelled a very long way to be here today. So let me wish you all a very warm welcome to this partnership conference entitled “investing in a common future”. We hope that this conference will help ensure that these are not just nice words on paper. We really want to work during this conference to put cooperation into practice.

Our economic relations form an ever closer-knit web around the globe. Thanks to the Internet, we now know more about each other than ever before. Distance has lost its import when it comes to making new contacts and maintaining them. Developments like these of course bring tremendous opportunities. However, they also mean that we have to work towards sustainable and inclusive economic development for the entire world. A single country acting alone cannot make much headway on such a project. Yet globalisation is not a destiny to which we must yield without demur. On the contrary, it is something we must forge in partnership with others.

The Agenda 2030 is a great achievement, because all the countries on our planet have agreed on a common pathway for development. In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals, which defined targets for the developing countries, this time all countries – developed and developing nations alike – are part of this Agenda 2030.

It is on this basis that we have adopted the motto, “shaping an interconnected world”, for our G20 Presidency. The G20 Summit will take place in Hamburg. We have chosen a maritime image – a reef knot – as the symbol of our Presidency. The harder you pull on it, the better it holds. It symbolises the ties between our countries.

We know that pan-global development can only succeed if all continents share in such development. This also means, first and foremost, that the African continent has to make progress on its development pathway over the next few years. Even today, the economies of some African countries are remarkably dynamic. Some are even growing faster than the industrialised and newly industrialised economies of the G20. Success stories like those should inspire others. They reveal the potential that lies in African countries – for example in the field of renewable energy and digital development. There are many good examples of decentralised energy supply and much more besides. But much still remains to be done.

We in the industrialised countries have to consider whether we have always taken the right path in providing our traditional development aid. I don’t think we have. We have to focus more strongly on each specific country’s own economic development. That’s what gave rise to the idea – proposed first and foremost by our Finance Minister and our Development Minister – of saying we need an initiative through which we don’t speak about Africa, but speak with Africa. The result was the G20 Compact with Africa Initiative.

The countries of Africa have also set their own targets in their Agenda 2063 and have clearly stated what they believe development should bring. That’s why it’s called the Compact with Africa, not the Compact for Africa. The idea is for each country to say what development steps it considers necessary and how it thinks we can help and how, together, we can make available suitable instruments, so that the relevant development projects do succeed. You will talk about this in more detail today and tomorrow.

We want to lend support for regional market integration, not least in order to enhance the transfer of technology and know-how. We also want to ensure that trade flows between Europe and African countries really benefit everyone. We still have a lot to do in this regard.

The next European Union-African Union summit will take place in November. Today’s meeting, which we are hosting as part of our G20 Presidency, will also serve to prepare the ground for that summit. We are aware that our achievements of the past years are not yet enough. In many countries, development lags behind what is needed given the speed of population growth. Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050.

We also know that development is only possible if security is given. However, in many parts of Africa security is not yet sufficiently guaranteed – be it due to fragile sovereignty, conflicts, terrorism or humanitarian crises. Numerous human tragedies are being played out as we speak. For this reason, boosting the economy does not top the agenda in some African countries. They need to deal with day-to-day survival first.

As a result, the G20 Africa Partnership is concerned on the one hand with economic development, but on the other with fostering peace, stability and security – i.e. in creating the basic conditions for economic activity. There, too, we have to learn to think anew. For many years development policy-makers did not pay sufficient attention to security issues. For many years, we felt virtuous when we were not dealing with military equipment. But some of you have said to me that you are expected to combat terrorism, but are not given any support to do so.

I thus think we have to be more honest and admit that only where security is given can development take root. I consider it very courageous of some countries to take responsibility upon themselves in the fight against terrorism in Mali and its neighbourhood. France now wants a Security Council mandate in this connection. I can only say that Germany will support this.

Special attention will have to be devoted to the youth of Africa – as highlighted in the Agenda 2063. More than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. As I keep saying in Germany, the average age here in Germany is 43 years. The average age in Niger, Mali and other countries is less than 15 years. This just goes to show the very different situations we have to deal with. If we don’t give young people prospects for the future, if we don’t invest in education and skills, if we don’t strengthen the position of girls and young women, the development agenda will not succeed.

In other words, as part of our work in the G20 we will do everything we can, through the compacts with African countries and through special initiatives for women’s education and female entrepreneurship, to improve the prerequisites that should enable Africa to develop and grow as we need it to.

If hopelessness is too widespread in Africa, young people are also more likely to seek a better life elsewhere in the world. Thus, by working together with you for your countries, we are also enhancing our own security and will be able to put a stop to the activities of criminals who are toying with refugees and migrants’ fates and extracting large sums of money from them. Many refugees have terrible tales to tell of human smuggling and trafficking in human beings. States thus have to work together. We have to create legal options for movement and must not permit people to make money from the suffering of others.

Ladies and gentlemen, this conference also serves to draw attention to the differences between your countries, to the diversity of challenges faced in Africa. For this reason, too, let me thank you for coming. Many people in Germany are not yet as well informed about either the good or the difficult aspects of life in your countries as we would wish. Getting to know each other better, learning more about each other, and assuming responsibility together are all also aspects of shaping an interconnected world.

I hope that this conference will make a contribution to this end. And so let me ask all of you here today not to mince your words, to talk “tacheles”, as we say in Germany. Simply saying nice things doesn’t achieve anything. We have to learn from one another. And we need results. That’s what we’re here for.

A very warm welcome to you all.


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