Scholz: We support African-led efforts to build trade and security

Friday May 05 2023
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ethiopia's Affairs Minister Birtukan Ayana

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) walks with Ethiopian Foreign Affairs State Minister Birtukan Ayana (R) upon his arrival at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa on May 4 ,2023. PHOTO | AFP


Visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Aggrey Mutambo about East Africa’s place in Berlin’s foreign policy.


You are visiting two countries, Ethiopia and Kenya, which have also lately been visited by representatives of other global powers. What is Germany’s interest in the region?   

We can only effectively address the most important challenges of our time, including defining the rules that determine our global order, if we work more closely with African partners. Both Kenya and Ethiopia are important in this respect, hosting very relevant international organisations. 

Kenya is a climate champion, producing more than 90 percent of its electricity through renewables, with ambitious national climate goals. It is also a leader in upholding the international order based on the UN Charter and international law, which is particularly important for our two continents. Nairobi is the only UN seat in the Global South and is very engaged in working towards peace in the region. 

Ethiopia has enormous potential, particularly in the agricultural sector. If the country succeeds in consolidating peace internally, it will increasingly be able to work for regional security as it did before the terrible internal war. Addis Ababa is the seat of the AU, with which Germany works closely. 


What kind of foreign policy are you pursuing with Ethiopia and Kenya?

Ethiopia and Kenya are both long-standing partners of Germany in Africa. East Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, and we want to contribute to making the region stable and help it prosper. Growing global challenges like climate change already affect East Africa severely, particularly in the form of massive droughts. We seek to address these challenges together. We want to be partners on issues that concern both Africa’s and Europe’s future. We also support African-led efforts to build and maintain peace and security, as the people affected by military conflicts deserve peace, economic growth and prosperity. Only then can they tackle the global challenges that we all will face in the coming decades.  

Recently, Germany launched its Policy Guidelines for Africa, meant to recognise the “continent’s new position in the world.” What new perspectives will your trip bring?

Africa’s role in the world is becoming more important for many reasons. Its population is young, dynamic and growing. African countries are well placed to play an important role in producing green energy, which will be crucial for manufacturing processes all over the world. Africa also needs to lead the way when it comes to peace building and peacekeeping in Africa and to determining how free and independent people will live in the future. Germany would like the African Union to join the G20 and to see African countries better represented in the UN Security Council.  

Read: UN relocates Africa projects office to Kenya

How can Africa boost exports to Germany and how can bilateral trade increase?

Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world, with enormous potential for trade with Germany. Germany produces technologies that are very important for transitioning to carbon-free economies, which African countries could use to benefit from the enormous renewable energy resources that this continent has to offer also to European customers. We should see this as a win-win situation and make the most of it. In 2017 Germany initiated the G20 Compact with Africa, an investment initiative within this group of the most important economies. Kenya is most welcome to participate in this. Germany also strongly supports the African Continental Free Trade Area. This visionary project could raise incomes in Africa substantially and lift some 50 million people out of extreme poverty. Our long-term vision is a continent-to-continent free trade agreement between Africa and Europe. 

Ethiopia and Kenya are among African countries with a big youth population who are unemployed and often leave the country for greener pastures. Is Germany going to open its doors for skilled labour from these regions, including relaxation of migrant laws?

In 2050, one third of the world’s youth will be African. Africa’s youth is central to the continent’s development. At the same time, young people need jobs and prospects in their lives. In Europe there is an increasing need for more skilled and motivated workers. I see a great potential for cooperation in this regard. Germany wants to be more attractive to people who want to work and live in Germany. That is why we are currently revising our Skilled Immigration Act.  

Why did you choose to visit Ethiopia at this point in time? What is your perspective on how to address what happened during the Tigray war, and does Germany still support an external investigation? How can we ensure that other regions in Ethiopia remain stable?

One of my objectives was to visit the African Union and its commissioners in order to continue our exchange on how to manage global and regional challenges and opportunities jointly. The second objective was to support the peace process in Ethiopia. We are all aware that the war in Tigray was terrible and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. In my talks in Ethiopia, I acknowledged the peace accord and its ongoing implementation. I encourage the government and also the newly appointed administrative head of the Tigray region to continue on this path. Moreover, a sustainable peace will require reconciliation, which can only happen if there is accountability for the crimes committed by both sides. An inclusive national dialogue will be needed to reach an agreement on governance and for a peaceful future in a united country. 

Kenya is playing an increasingly important mediation role in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. What is your view on this engagement and on the support that could come from the international community?

I commend Kenya’s outstanding engagement as a mediator to resolve regional conflicts and bring about peaceful solutions. Kenya and other countries, regional organisations as well as the African Union are important actors in stabilising a very volatile region. African-led initiatives for peace and stability in Africa will become increasingly important in the future. The European Union supports many of these initiatives and operations and will continue to do so. 

Read: Kenya, Norway mediate Oromo peace talks

During your visit in Addis Ababa, you met with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki. How can collaboration between the African Union as well as the European Union be strengthened, and what can they learn from each other?

The AU embodies a vision that Germany and the EU can very well relate to: The vision of a continent of closely entwined societies, an area of free trade and the free movement of people. We hope that regional and continental economic integration will form the basis for longstanding peace and prosperity in Africa, just as it has done in the EU. We are working closely with the AU on deepening our trade and economic ties, on our cooperation on multilateral issues and in international organisations for peace and security.