What a major undertaking Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller has kicked off, namely nothing less than a new partnership for development and peace with Africa. It can be summarized as the “4 Cs”: combatting Corruption, fostering Cooperation, Concentration and Conditioning. Its striking name: Marshall Plan with Africa. It was devised by German and African representatives of the worlds of politics, science, and business as well as from civil society. It takes its place among other concepts that in 2017 will decisively set the strategy for international policy on Africa. Indeed, the European Union is busy working on a new Africa concept, and Africa is the focal point of the German G20 Presidency. What are the key parameters of the Marshall Plan? We summarized the most important facts:
1. Why is a Marshall Plan with Africa needed?
Africa is the “opportunities and growth continent of the decade, if not the century,” of that Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller is convinced. And in the media and the groves of academia the experts paint the picture of an “African renaissance”, a continent on the move. However, the reality on the ground is different: On a world-wide comparison Africa lags a long way behind. In terms of combatting poverty, hardly any progress has been made. Around 40 percent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa live beneath the poverty line. Although more than 16 percent of the world’s population live in Africa, the continent generates a meagre three percent of global gross domestic product. Innumerable armed conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics lead to dramatic migratory and refugee movements. Müller is convinced that “If we don’t solve these problems together locally they will at some point come to us.”
2. What is the Marshall Plan intended to achieve?
The “Marshall Plan with Africa” centres on the notion that we primarily need to fight not the symptoms, but the causes of flight and migration. Anyone who only builds walls and fences or runs surveillance on the entire Mediterranean will not help solve the current problems. The Marshall Plan is therefore also a vision for the future of German and European development cooperation. Minister Müller says the plan envisages a fundamental reorientation of German development cooperation with Africa. The Marshall Plan hinges on two essential effects: The goal is firstly to boost economic interaction with Africa and secondly to ensure sustainable long-term development.
3. How will the Marshall Plan’s objectives be achieved?
Africa – for many people that is above all the continent of crises, wars, catastrophes and diseases. The Marshall Plan sets out to correct that distorted perception. Indeed, Africa is not only the recipient of development aid from Europe, but rather a continent full of prospects for investments and an important trade partner.
With his concept Müller is therefore prioritizing the “4 Cs”: combatting Corruption, fostering Cooperation, Concentration and Conditioning. If the image entrepreneurs have of Africa is significantly improved, this could in the medium term lead to extensive investments in general economic development, education systems, infrastructure and future sectors such as renewable energy. The Marshall Plan also foresees reforms to trade and agricultural policy in particular with a view to supporting African SMEs. Countries especially willing to reform are set to receive more financial support, too – money that will then be withdrawn from countries unwilling to reform.
4. What opportunities does the Marshall Plan offer for Africa?
Alongside the advantages for partners in Africa the plan also creates prospects in other fields. If Europe commits more strongly to Africa, it will compete directly with other world powers. China, Russia and India, for example, have long since identified the continent’s potential and are increasingly investing there. African states can benefit from this and negotiate better trade and investment agreements with potential partners. More self-confidence on the part of African states could also lead to them seeking far more voice in international forums. It is conceivable that an African state might have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
5. What prospects does the Marshall Plan hold for Germany?
There are in particular two important opportunities from the German viewpoint: If the goals in question are consistently and successfully realized, the Marshall Plan will offer German companies new markets on the African continent. Africa’s fast-growing population of at present 1.2 billion people constitutes a gigantic potential sales market. A positive economic trend would also create new perspectives for Africa’s young people and could lead to migratory and refugee flows ebbing.
6. Under what conditions could the Marshall Plan for Africa succeed?
Africa’s 55 countries could hardly be more different. There are countries rich in resources and others with few, there are fragile states and stable states, vibrant democracies and absolute monarchies, tiny island states and “giants” such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is almost seven times larger than Germany. This diversity is something all the international development policy actors have to acknowledge. Moreover, not only the ministries involved in Germany, but our European and international partners need to pull as one and take the initiative together. That is a key precondition for the success of the Marshall Plan. And last but not least, African partners must be involved in the process credibly and as equals. Many policymakers agree that the solution to African problems is something that in the final instance only the Africans themselves can bring about. Which means tying in initiatives that already exist on the continent, such as the African Union’s “Agenda 2063”, which can serve as the basis for German development cooperation with Africa.