Europe’s commitment to support Africa – an act of “saving itself”

Wednesday, 2018-09-05 14:47:52
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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks at the international donor conference in Berlin, Germany.
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NDO – An international donor conference recently took place in Berlin, Germany, during which an aid package of EUR2.17 billion was pledged for the states bordering Lake Chad in the fight against Boko Haram. Conflict and violence in Africa is the main reason for the influx of migrants from the “black continent” to Europe. Providing aid for Africa is also a solution that European countries need to do to save themselves, as the wave of migrants becomes a problem that troubles the “old continent”.

Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group who regularly carries out terrorist attacks and has become a major security threat in Africa. Since the insurgency to plot the establishment of an Islamic state eight years ago, the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram has conducted a series of suicide bomb attacks in the countries of the Lake Chad basin, such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and the Republic of Chad, killing at least 20,000 and leaving 2.6 million displaced. Boko Haram use kidnapping as a weapon of war. The violence inflicted by Boko Haram exacerbates the humanitarian situation, which has been extremely difficult in one of the world’s poorest regions, putting an estimated 11 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, and significantly reducing the economic activities in the region. Due to the difficult geographical location, humanitarian relief operations in the Lake Chad countries have to be implemented by armed convoys, with aid personnel travelling by helicopter.

With the participation of more than 70 countries and international organisations, the international donor conference in Berlin put forward a series of commitments to Africa. In addition to the aforementioned EUR2.17 billion pledge, another US$467 million will also be disbursed in the form of loans at preferential interest rates. Germany wishes to add a EUR100 million humanitarian subsidy to the region until 2020 and an additional EUR40 million for stabilisation and conflict prevention activities. These moves are the most obvious demonstration of Europe’s concern over the regular violence and conflict in Africa, as they directly affect the European countries across the Mediterranean.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Theresa May made visits to Africa in late August, which shows Africa’s increasingly important position in the eyes of the global powers. Despite possessing many advantages in terms of geographical proximity, culture and historical ties, European countries seem sluggish in seeking benefits in Africa at present. The import/export turnover between the European Union (EU) and Africa has continually decreased. Goods exported to Africa accounted for only 6.7% of the EU’s total export revenues in 2016. Meanwhile, the value of African commodities exported to Europe also dropped to EUR115 billion compared with EUR185 billion in 2012. The UK PM arrived in Africa with a commitment to maintaining an aid level of 0.7% of the GDP for developing countries, while affirming London’s wish to boost trade with Africa by pledging a sponsorship of GBP4 billion for African economies. She also set the target that the UK will become the largest investor in Africa among the Group of Seven (G7) countries by 2022. As for the German Chancellor, the Africa visit aimed to promote the implementation of the “Marshall Plan with Africa”, with the view of supporting development and reducing poverty, thereby contributing to stopping the wave of migrants from Africa to Europe. Since 2015, more than a million refugees from the Middle East and Africa have flooded into Europe, mostly into Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel once suffered a great deal of criticism, both at home and abroad, for her open-door refugee policy, when the wave of migrants into Europe just began.

Africa is considered a “sleeping giant of the world economy” and is a large market with a population of more than 1.2 billion. It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population will live in Africa by 2050. However, the vicious cycle of conflict and poverty has pulled back the development of the “black continent”. The European nations’ funding commitments not only aim to stabilise and prevent conflict in Africa, but also to “save themselves”, because Europe can only stop the influx of migrants, as well as solve the “security problem”, when it comes parallel to a stable and developed Africa.