Germany In Africa

Africa, like a century ago, is once again of interest to the West. The list of countries that once had colonies on the Dark Continent is long. Here are just a few of them: Belgium, France, Portugal, Germany and Spain. The full list is two or even three times longer. Expert, however, take interest in something else. After a certain lull, Europe has woken up again. Africa has become interesting again. Notably, to everyone at once. And this is due in no small part to Germany. A country that was little visible during the colonial era but now badly wants to strengthen its position by all appearances. And such desire is strengthened by the fact that Germany’s economy is by no means on the rise itself. The brilliant times of Angela Merkel are history now but the times of Olaf Scholz certainly cannot be called brilliant. But first things first.

On December 18, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock started her visit to Rwanda. At first, nothing declared that the visit would be followed by a series of events that would indirectly confirm the thoughts of a number of experts that Germany was looking for its place in the world. It is looking for new meanings for its foreign policy, opportunities and support for the economy. Nothing else can put forward to justify the presence of the foreign minister of a Western European country in the center of Africa. Except that…

During her visit, Annalena Baerbock took part in the opening ceremony of a vaccine production plant owned by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Vaccines based on mRNA will be able to fight tuberculosis, malaria and COVID-19, the main diseases in the African continent. That is, Germany is already trying to use its soft power and capabilities to “claim” a market that neither the Russians, nor the Chinese, nor the Americans have yet penetrated in sufficient quantities.

The idea is amazing, but are all the side effects have been taken into account? It seems that no. Yes, in terms of pharmaceuticals, Africa is a gold mine for Europe. Europe will help save a large number of people and reduce infant mortality owing to its technologies. However, can it raise the standard of living for people in Africa? Doubtful. After all, every person wants to live well and wants a prosperous future for their children. So far, no matter how cynical it may sound, high population growth is at least somehow restrained by the high mortality rate but as modern medicine rolls around everything will change. Where will all these people run once they reach legal age? The answer is obvious: to Europe. Unbeknownst to them, Europeans are now planting a time bomb for themselves to be experienced in some 15 to 20 years. However, they don’t think about it. It is short-term profits that they care about.

scholz-in-abuja
Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu welcomed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Abuja on 29 October 2023

After the arrival of the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius visited Niger. He became almost the first Western European politician to fly to the West African country since the coup took place there almost five months ago. The topics for discussion are very clear: the preservation of a small German air base in Niger (which the author frankly doubts because the current leadership is extremely skeptical of the West and is aimed at cooperation with China and Russia), testing the ground for further potential deepening of cooperation in the military sphere and attempts to find common ground between countries to provide Germany with a place in the sultry sun of Africa.

Following the visit of Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock to Rwanda and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius to Niger, Germany continues to develop its potential in Africa. This time the Bundeswehr wants to send troops to the Red Sea area. The goal of this initiative is to ensure safe navigation in the region. Its close location to the Suez Canal makes this area strategically important for businesses and major powers. The United States has announced the creation of an international coalition that will contribute to navigation safety in the region.

Ensuring security in the region is in Berlin’s interests in general, but participation requires resolution of a number of issues at a high level in the European Union, NATO and the UN. Moreover, to participate in this operation, the Bundeswehr needs to obtain permission from the Bundestag. However, so far, the Parliament has not issued such a mandate. Another obstacle is the German Navy’s lack of a suitable ship for the mission. It will not be possible to get one shortly. The challenge is very significant but it is not clear how it can be solved.

The situation in the region is escalating on top of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis, who supported Hamas that rebelled against Israel, stated that they would not allow ships that either sought to get to Israel or owned by Israel or sailed under the flags of the countries that supported Israel to pass through the Red Sea or the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Increasingly frequent attacks on merchant ships by pirates made the Western community tighten control over the situation. The most affected companies include French CMA CGM and Danish Maersk corporation which recently announced the suspension of freight deliveries through the region.

From the point of view of Germany, all those initiatives are proper and good. However, will Germany be able to win its place in the sun in Africa? Given the West’s reputation on the Dark Continent, most likely not. Besides, honestly, Germany cannot offer anything other than its own technologies. Is Africa ready to receive such technologies? The West’s reputation in Africa is far from the most positive as well.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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