Germany vows to twin security, development drives in Africa

Inauguration of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s defense and development ministers pledged on Wednesday to jointly work to bolster security, peace and development in Africa, citing massive challenges related to population growth as well as big economic opportunities.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said a growing exodus of migrants from Africa over the past two years demonstrated the urgent need to work more closely with African countries to boost their development, economic growth and security.

“We have understood the wake-up call of the last years. Years ago, it was all about ‘helping’ Africa, but that is not the position anymore,” von der Leyen said. “We understand that we must solve these problems together.”

She told a conference in Berlin that industrialized countries had to take responsibility for the policies that had caused climate change and globalization, and the devastating impact both have had on the African continent.

Only by improving the outlook for young African populations could Europe and Africa stem the flow of migrants and explore opportunities together, she said.

Germany has made Africa a priority for its G20 presidency this year. It has encouraged African states to join a “Compact with Africa” under which those that promise to fight corruption, implement good governance and respect human rights will have privileged ties to wealthy G20 nations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her top officials have also launched an “Marshall Plan with Africa” modeled on the U.S. aid program that helped Germany rebuild after World War Two.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller said security and development had to go hand in hand but also underscored the economic promise of relations with Africa, noting that eight of the 12 fastest growing economies in the world are African.

He hosted a meeting for African leaders and German business executives in Berlin this week to help stimulate private investment aimed at boosting job growth in Africa.

Von der Leyen also said the German military was working closely with France to help train African forces to respond and across borders to Islamist militants and illegal migration.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Mark Heinrich)