German involvement across various regions of Africa has evolved significantly over the last several years. Most recently, the government of Chad expelled Jan-Christian Gordon Kricke, who has been the German ambassador to Chad since 2021, due to his "non-respect of diplomatic customs" and overinvolvement in the country’s affairs. The German Federal Foreign Office stated that it was unclear why the country’s ambassador had been expelled, and that it was trying to resolve matters with the Chadian government. This incident has had direct effects on German influence in Africa, which has gradually expanded since the early 1990s and the end of the Cold War.
Germany has continuously tried to reinvigorate its ties with various African countries through taking advantage of the fact that it has a more limited colonial legacy on the continent compared to other Western powers such as France or the UK. German involvement in Africa has ramped up especially since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine. Like other Western powers, Germany hopes to mitigate negative repercussions of the war, especially with regard to global energy supply shortages. There are various factors shaping German involvement in Africa as well as mounting challenges that Germany will face.
German involvement in Africa in recent years is driven by several main factors, including:
1. Gaining Africa’s vote in international forums: Germany, like other international powers, hopes to make the most of Africa’s significant clout in international forums, including the UN, where African countries hold a total of 54 votes. This shapes German policy at the regional and international level. German has recently tried to garner African support in the UN through supporting a permanent seat for Africa on the UN Security Council. Annalena Baerbock, the German federal minister for foreign affairs, indicated at a January 2023 meeting in Addis Ababa with Moussa Faki, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, that Germany would support Africa’s bid for two permanent seats on the council.
Thisis something that has been on the minds of various international powers recently, especially the US. At the second US-Africa Leaders Summit held in December 2022, the US expressed its support for a permanent African representative in all international bodies, including the G20 and the UN Security Council. Germany has recently ramped up the number of diplomatic visits to Africa in order to gain Africa’s support in international forums. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz travelled to Senegal, Niger, and South Africa in May 2022, after which Robert Habeck, the German vice chancellor and federal minister for economic affairs and climate action, travelled to Namibia and South Africa in December of the same year.
2. Maximizing utility of consumer markets and resources: German hopes to benefit from the enormous natural resources which Africa possesses in order to serve Germany’s own economic objectives and interests. Africa boasts 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves and around 40 percent of the world’s gold, as well as 90 percent of chromium and platinum. It also has significant diamond, cobalt, and uranium reserves, as well as 65 percent of the world’s arable land and 10 percent of renewable freshwater. Africa is the world’s second largest consumer market with a population around 1.3 billion people, which is expected to double to 2.5 billion by 2050.
3. Identifying alternative energy solutions for supply deficits: Germany, like other Western powers, intends to draw significantly on African energy resources. This is particularly true since the Russian war in Ukraine began in late February 2022. At that time, Russia cut off energy supplies following Western sanctions, which resulted in the halting of flows via the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs 1200 kilometers from the lower part of the Baltic Sea and had delivered 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. It had been expected to ensure energy supplies to Europe for the next 50 years.
Africa will be able to meet Germany and EU energy needs since it holds around 8 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. In 2021, the total natural gas reserves in Africa exceeded 620 trillion cubic feet. Africa can also contribute to meeting Europe’s oil needs, since it holds 12 percent of global oil reserves. It is estimated that Africa’s oil reserves are equivalent to around 125.3 billion barrels.
4. Curbing irregular migration: Germany is constantly trying to counter irregular migration due to the broader ramifications of immigration for national security. Germany is the largest contributor to the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which was established in 2015 to control irregular migration to Europe. Germany provided one-fourth of EUTF’s budget through allocating around 316 million euros of government funding from the German Federal Foreign Office and Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) between 2016 and 2021.
The EUTF aims to provide around 5 billion euros in emergency project funding in order to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement. The German Agency for International Cooperation GmbH (GIZ) is one of the main bodies implementing EUTF projects, and received more than 800 million euros in funding for this purpose, centered around in North Africa and the Sahel.
There are many factors that have shaped the trajectory of German involvement in Africa in recent years, including:
1. Developing a new strategy for Africa: The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development announced this strategy on 23 January 2023, in which it decided to focus on six main areas of cooperation with African countries. The first area centers around sustainable economic development, employment, and prosperity through social and environmental transformation of the economy, conservation of vital natural resources, energy, infrastructure, trade, employment, migration, and digitization. The second focuses on overcoming poverty and hunger, bolstering social protections through promoting sustainable development, flexible agriculture and food systems, sustainable consumption, and supply chains, and expanding social protection systems and access to education.
The third area of cooperation focuses on health and pandemic prevention through establishing medical production capacities, developing the One Health approach to foster interdisciplinary cooperation, strengthening African health systems, and improving and digitizing primary health care and women’s health. The fourth area focuses on feminist policy development and gender equality, through supporting equality between men and women, furthering women’s rights, establishing alliances for equality based on gender, supporting women’s economic participation, and combating gender-based violence.
The fifth area focuses on rule of law, democracy, human rights, and good governance. This includes respecting, strengthening, and protecting human rights, developing the role of an independent judiciary, promoting efficiency and transparency, combatting corruption, expanding the tax base, and fostering political participation in civil society. The sixth and final area promotes peace and security through focusing on addressing the root structural causes of conflict and preventing further conflict, as well as supporting refugees, internally-displaced persons, and host communities. It also involves promoting comprehensive conflict solutions and flexible rapid-impact crisis management and strengthening African institutions in the field of peace and security.
2. Strengthening multilateral ties: In 2017, Germany launched a new program called the G20 Compact with Africa (CwA) while it headed the G20. This multilateral initiative aimed to provide a dialogue platform for the G20 and African nations, as well as international organizations such as the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank and other bilateral and multilateral G20 partners. It aimed to prepare comprehensive reform programs for each country and to support measures that encouraged sustainable investment in the private sector, especially infrastructure, in African countries. There are twelve African countries participating in this initiative: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, and Tunisia. These countries have benefitted from the opportunities that the initiative provides to bolster their economic competitiveness and improve conditions for private investment. It has also helped these countries to cope more successfully with the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This initiative differed from previous arrangements because it focused directly on encouraging private investment instead of relying on public aid flows. It aims to push African governments to work with these partners to implement necessary reforms in order to attract domestic and foreign investment. The German government has backed this initiative from the beginning especially via the German KfW Development Bank and through bilateral reform arrangements with partner countries such as Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Togo, and Tunisia. It also has also streamlined procedures for loan guarantees. The Compact with Africa High-Level Conference convened annually in 2018, 2019, and 2021.
3. Supporting diverse economic linkages: Economic considerations are a key driver behind German involvement in Africa. Bilateral trade increased to 62.5 million USD in 2022, up from 44.2 billion and 58.1 billion in 2020 and 2021, respectively. In 2021, direct German investment in Africa reached 1.6 billion euros, equivalent to 1.7 billion USD, with 1.1 billion euros (1.2 billion USD) going to sub-Saharan Africa. German direct foreign investment in various African countries reached 8.5 billion euros during 2016-2020. This made Germany one of the largest EU investors in Africa, even though its investments were only half that of France, the leading EU investor in Africa. Germany is trying to increase the scope of its investments and Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that investment in Africa was set to reach 20 billion euros per year in order to create incentives for private investment.
Germany has deep economic ties with various African countries including South Africa, which was Germany’s 27th largest trade partner in 2022. Bilateral trade reached 24 billion euros according to the German Federal Statistics Office. Almost 600 German companies carried out business in South Africa, invested a total of more than 5 billion euros, and employed around 100,000 people. Among Germany’s trade partners, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia were ranked 53, 56, and 57, respectively, with bilateral trade totaling 5.5, 4.9, and 4.36 billion euros in 2022.
4. Providing extensive development aid: The German government has expanded humanitarian aid in Africa over the last few years. It provided 564 million euros in aid to Africa in 2021 and has provided 20 million euros to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization since late 2020 in order to ensure that people and animals in areas at risk of hunger in east Africa could receive quick aid. This supported livestock feed for 50,000 persons raising cattle, and also provided cash transfers to around 15,000 families in Kenya.
Germany is the world’s second largest donor country for development aid, after the US (which provides 42.3 billion USD in aid), according to 2021 statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Development aid from Germany has reached 32.2 billion USD, or 0.7 percent of the country’s gross national income, followed by Japan at 17.6 billion USD, and the United Kingdom at 15.8 billion USD. This aid was primarily directed towards African countries to support various areas of need including refugees, humanitarian aid, education, energy, governance, civil society, agriculture, health, water, peace, security, manufacturing, and mining, as well as business and support for national budgets.
5. Supporting peacekeeping efforts in Africa: Germany contributed to three UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, including sending three peacekeepers to the UN Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO), 601 members of its forces to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINSUSMA), and 11 peacekeepers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Germany also sent a single peacekeeper to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Germany’s total contribution to UN peacekeeping operations has included 660 members of its forces since 31 December 2022.
German involvement in MINUSMA in Mali is its largest contingent within a UN mission. Germany had ramped up its participation in this mission based on a May 2022 decision to replace departing French forces. However, the German government decided late last year to withdraw its forces, which is is likely to happen gradually starting in mid-2023 and continue through early May 2024. This comes in the wake of tensions between the transitional military regime in Mali and Western countries since the military coup in Mali in August 2020. Meanwhile, Russia has strengthened its military and security ties with Mali’s regime.
Germany has also cut back on its involvement in the European Union Training Missions (EUTM) in Mali and Niger. It reduced the number of German soldiers in the mission from 600 to 300 following an EU deciding to reduce the size of training missions. Instead, it directed its energies towards capacity-building on an interim and gradual basis in Mali in early April 2022. As a result, the security situation in Mali deteriorated significantly. According to Human Rights Watch, Mali’s forces and Russian fighters executed around 300 civilians in a village in central Mali. Germany had previously decided in May 2022 to extend its involvement for a year; the vast majority of those forces are in Niger.
There are many challenges that Germany faces in Africa, including the following:
1. Growing Russian influence: Russia’s increasing involvement in Africa has eroded Germany’s clout in the region. Russia has become more active in Africa since the late 2010s, when Russia hosted the Russia-Africa Summit in October 2019. It plans to host a second iteration of this summit later this year. Russia is now Africa’s primary arms supplier, and Africa accounted for 14 percent of Russian arms exports between 2017 and 2021, according to "Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2022," a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in March of last year. The Russian Wagner Group has also become more involved in various African countries, including the Central African Republic since 2017, and Mali since 2020.
2. Expanding Chinese involvement: Chinese influence in Africa has grown in recent years, especially in the economic sphere. China has become Africa’s number one trade partner, with bilateral trade expanding 11 percent to 282 billion USD in 2022. This expansion has interfered with German economic clout in Africa. China has pursued "dumping" policies in which it has flooded African markets with its products at lower prices, while Germany has focused on high-quality products at higher prices for the end consumer.
China has also become the leading investor in African infrastructure. It has embarked upon various projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, which was launched in 2013, and most of which will was completed by 2022. This included building a coastal railway in Nigeria, the Bagamoyo Port in Tanzania, and establishing 25 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in 16 African countries. That perhaps was what prompted Germany to support the EU’s Global Gateway project, which aims to provide an alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. The Global Gateway project entails 150 billion euros of investment in African markets.
3. Increasingly unfavorable investment conditions: Investment conditions have become less favorable due to rising corruption in Africa. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2022, there were 13 African countries on the list of the top 20 most corrupt countries worldwide. These include Somalia, South Sudan, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, and Burundi. High incidence of corruption, bureaucratic difficulties, and deteriorating infrastructure all contribute to German investor anxiety. According to the Doing Business Index 2020, there were 26 African countries among the world’s 40 weakest-performing economies.
4. Escalating threat of terrorism: Terrorism poses one of the most significant security threats to expanding German influence in Africa. This is especially true in light of growing cross-border terrorist organizations in different parts of Africa. For example, Mozambique, especially in Cabo Delgado Province in the north of the country, has experienced an increased incidence of terrorist operations. This has created many challenges for the delegation that Germany sent to explore investment opportunities in natural gas fields, petrochemical projects, energy, and manufacturing in Mozambique in March 2021.
5. Links between development aid and political reform: Germany’s Africa strategy aims to further democracy, human rights, and good governance. It sees this as a necessary condition to providing development aid. This is why Chad recently expelled the German ambassador, after the latter expressed reservations about extending the term of Mahamat Idriss Deby, chairman of Chad’s Transitional Military Council for an additional two years through October 2024. A resolution was also issued enabling Deby to run for office after the end of that period.
In conclusion, it seems likely that German involvement in Africa could be curtailed by growing Russian and Chinese control over many former areas of Western influence. This is especially true in light of growing international competition in Africa given the ongoing repercussions of the Russian war in Ukraine. This could prompt Germany to implement the new strategy which it announced early this year. As part of its strategy, Germany will bolster cooperation with African institutions and support Africa-wide initiatives, especially the African Continental Free Trade Area. It will also form new strategic alliances with African countries, develop innovative funding mechanisms, expand its involvement in the private sector, and foster multilateral partnerships with various stakeholders, including civil society.