29 April 2013

South Africa: Germany Highlights Ties to South Africa

While visiting Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has called on Africa's emerging nations to display more engagement in solving their continent's conflicts and crises.

"African problems need African solutions," said the German Foreign Minister, using a well-worn phrase favored by the African Union. He was speaking in Pretoria on Monday after a meeting with his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. "We are prepared to help you," Westerwelle said, "but it is the African countries themselves that are in the driving seat."

The minister was referring to the conflict in Mali - for which the UN Security Council has just authorized a peacekeeping force - and to the coup in the Central African Republic about which he expressed concern.

Germany is contributing to an EU military training mission in Mali which will operate alongside the UN force.

The German foreign minister meets members of an iThemba Labantu drama group in Phillipi

Trade ties

Nkoana-Mashabane hinted that her country might soon abandon its reserve about involvement in international peacekeeping missions. She said "whenever it's necessary for South Africa to contribute to the making of a more peaceful, secure and more democratic continent then we are ready." Nkoana-Mashabane added that on a better African continent, "South Africa would be better off."

Both ministers called for an expansion of bilateral trade ties. Nkoana-Mashabane explicitly urged German companies to step up investment in her country. More than 600 German firms are currently operating in South Africa where they have created 90,000 jobs.

Guido Westerwelle being welcomed on arrival in Ghana by State Secretary Leslie Kojo Christian

DW South Africa correspondent Thuso Khumalo says Germany evidently sees South Africa as a gateway to the rest of Africa. South Africa was "a power that was growing, a power that could not be ignored," Westerwelle said. Township visit

On Sunday, Westerwelle visited Phillipi, one of Cape Town's larger townships. Its murder rate is among the highest in South Africa and almost 40 percent of the residents are HIV positive. Most of the 150,000 people who live in Phillipi have neither work nor money. This is where Berlin clergyman, Otto Kohlstock, runs the iThemba Labantu Lutheran Community Center, which with its clinic, youth projects and soup kitchen was on Westerwelle's itinerary.

During the Phillipi stop-over, Westerwelle said it is only possible to develop a country if economic growth reaches the ordinary population. "Africa will only be successful, if everybody gets a slice of the cake," he said. Observers says Ghana's elections were free and fair but Nana Akufo is contesting them in court

Praise for Ghanaian opposition leader

The German foreign minister arrived in South Africa from Ghana, which he praised for its democratic credentials. According to DW Ghana correspondent Isaac Kaledzi, Westerwelle consulted his Ghanaian counterpart Hannah Tetteh and also met Nana Akufo, the leader of Ghana's largest opposition party, NPP, and commended him for choosing to contest recent election results in court and not inciting his followers and supporters to take up arms.

The third leg of Westerwelle's five-day Africa tour takes him to Mozambique. Such trips are a good opportunity for a German foreign minister to display vision, to contemplate matters beyond the day-to-day diplomatic grind. Like his predecessors, Westerwelle complains that people in Germany are oblivious to changes in the rest of the world and that Germany's influence is dwindling. Yet in an interview with the popular German tabloid "Bild am Sonntag," which appeared while he was on his Africa tour, he spoke solely about German domestic issues. As the news agency dpa observed, Africa wasn't mentioned once.

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