Africa as a side note in German foreign policy? Those days are over. Chancellor Scholz is visiting the continent for the third time in two years – and does not want to return empty-handed.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to expand cooperation with West African Nigeria in the energy sector. At the start of his three-day trip to Africa, he made it clear that, in addition to the existing oil imports, he would also like to import natural gas from the continent’s most populous and economically strongest country.
“Nigeria has the largest gas reserves in Africa,” Scholz told the Nigerian newspaper “The Punch”. “German companies have an interest in gas supplies from Nigeria and look forward to working with Nigerian gas companies.”
Germany is also relying on joint initiatives to advance the production of hydrogen as an energy source of the future.
Third trip to Africa in almost two years
Scholz left for the Nigerian capital Abuja in the morning. After political discussions there, he wanted to travel on to the economic metropolis of Lagos in the evening and to Ghana on Monday evening. This is his third major trip to Africa in his almost two years as Chancellor.
His predecessor Angela Merkel (CDU) had just completed a visit to the neighboring continent at the same time in her term of office.
Scholz has decided to devote significantly more attention to the long-neglected continent than before. He also wants to broaden Germany’s international relations as a lesson from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Dependencies on individual countries, such as those previously on Russia for gas supplies and currently on China for trade relations, should be reduced.
That’s why his first two trips to the continent went to South Africa, traditionally Germany’s most important African partner country, to Kenya in the east and to Senegal and Niger in the west of the continent. In Senegal, Scholz campaigned for cooperation in the development of gas fields off the country’s coast.
This was criticized by climate activists because it is a fossil fuel that generates gases that are harmful to the climate. The federal government argues that gas is still needed for the transition phase to renewable energies.
West Africa: oil, gas and gold – but also terrorism
The Chancellor is now on the move again in West Africa. More than 400 million people live in the 15 states of the Economic Community of West African States, more than half of them are under 18 years old.
Migration and smuggling routes run through the area between the Sahara desert and the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic, whose states have large deposits of gold, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. The region is now also one of the largest and deadliest hotbeds of Islamist terror in the world.
Will Nigeria remain stable as West Africa’s economic giant?
Nigeria, with its 220 million people, has proven to be one of the most stable democracies in the coup-ravaged region since the end of a military dictatorship in 1999. But the country is slipping further and further into a dangerous mix of economic crisis and ever-worsening uncertainty.
In the northeast, the state has had limited success in the fight against Islamist terrorist groups such as Boko Haram for over a decade. According to the UN, almost 3.5 million people are on the run within the country, and 300,000 Nigerian refugees are in the neighboring countries of Niger and Cameroon. The economic crisis with the highest inflation in almost 20 years is making the situation worse. Experts warn of more migration.
Low recognition rate for asylum seekers from Nigeria
From January to September of this year, more than 1,800 initial asylum applications were made by Nigerians in Germany. The recognition rate is comparatively low.
Nigeria is one of the countries with which Scholz wants to facilitate the return of unrecognized asylum seekers through agreements. The EU is currently negotiating this with the country.
Steinmeier and Faeser also travel to Africa
The Chancellor is not the only member of the government who will be traveling to Africa in the next few days. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is traveling to Morocco on Monday together with the special representative for migration agreements, Joachim Stamp. There, too, it will be about how an agreement can be reached that makes deportations easier and at the same time simplifies the immigration of skilled workers.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also sets off for Africa on Monday. In Zambia and Tanzania the aim is to expand existing partnerships and establish new ones. “The Federal President is in complete agreement with the Federal Chancellor on this,” says the Federal President’s Office.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.