Africa: Angela Merkel has Done Much to Help Africa; Her Successor Should Continue the Relationship


Last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted the Federal Republic of Germany's President, his Excellency, Frank-Walter Steinmmeier. This visit is a positive sign that Germany will continue to have a strong relationship with the African continent, even though one of the main champions of the relationship, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, announced in October that she will step down from her role in 2021.

Indeed, now is the time for the African continent and Germany to cement the great relationships Merkel has fostered, build on the initiatives she has championed and leverage on the network she has brought along. For instance, just days before announcing her retirement, Merkel hosted a summit of African leaders, attended by Prime Ministers and 12 African Presidents. Four months ago, Merkel completed a three-day tour to African countries where she pledged a new development fund to tackle Africa's unemployment, a problem that has been the reason behind recent mass migrations from Africa. In July of 2017, she invited President Uhuru Kenyatta  to attend a G20 Summit meeting in Germany to represent the African continent.

Throughout her tenure, Merkel has worked with African leaders and presidents to help create jobs and ease poverty. Under her helm, she rolled out the  Marshall Plan - an expression of Germany's will and optimism to find a path to peace and development in cooperation between Europe and Africa. It is also part of a broader German focus on Africa - that focuses on more private investment, bottom-up economic development, and above all, more jobs and employment creation for Africans.

Overall, the quality of development aid given by Germany to developing countries, most of them in Africa, has also been ranked high. Germany-funded initiatives have ranged from technical and financial support for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation and push for universal health coverage among other global health initiatives. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation supported by Germany is very important for global health security because infectious diseases cost world economy $60billion each year. Germany's push for universal health coverage is rooted in the Bismarck model of social protection which ensures that everyone is protected from consequences of catastrophic health expenditure.

What's more is that Germany has been a more stable and less demanding donor when compared with other traditional development partners such as the US, UK, France and of course, China.

At the same time, Merkel has rallied other developed countries-often asking them to step up their support for developing countries, whose citizens continue to face several challenges including food climate change, poverty and food insecurity. For example, in 2017, before G8 meeting, she wrote a letter to her G8 colleagues and warned them that the food security crisis, if not addressed, could destabilize African countries and lead to International security problems.

The big questions then become, upon her eventual exit in 2021, will the commitments she has initiated continue? Will Africa continue to enjoy the support of Germany or will her exit mean the end to the great relationship and privileges including financial support that Africa has received from Germany? Will her successor carry on her legacy or will they erase it altogether?

Legacies can easily be erased. We have seen that happen in the US where many of President Barack Obama's initiatives and commitments to countries have stalled, stopped or been erased altogether. However, it is unlikely that many of these initiatives will abruptly end after her departure, as Steinmmeier's recent trip to South Africa suggests.

Another indicator of the continued relationship came during Merkel's recent visit to Ghana and Senegal, two of Africa's growing economies, Merkel travelled with nearly one dozen German CEO'S. These CEO's obviously have an interest in looking for opportunities to invest in Africa, and form partnerships not tied to politics. These CEO's ultimate goal is to set up companies in Africa, so, it is unlikely so that these initiatives will die after she exits. Further, Merkel, has also pledged a billion Euros - an incentive for Germany businesses to invest in Africa, investments that should live on, long after Merkel exits Germany politics.

And because it is hard to erase all her legacy as evidenced by the initiatives she has championed and the approach she has used, as well as the quality of aid Germany has extended to African countries, Merkel's successor has all the reasons to continue building her legacy. In the event, this does not happen, the African Continent should look to further their relationships with other developed countries that by default are still invested in Africa, like. France and Canada, especially, those that were recently ranked high in the recently released Center for Global Development annual index.

Merkel has done much for Africa. Carrying on her legacy is the right thing to do for the incoming Germany's chancellor. Merkel's potential successor has nothing to lose. The groundwork and foundation have been laid.

Dr Esther Ngumbi is a distinguished post doctoral researcher at the Entomology Department, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is also a food security fellow with the Aspen Institute New Voices.

Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor is a 2018 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. He is the Director of Policy & Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch and has published several pieces for various outlets including Devex.

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