Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel paid an official visit to Ethiopia on Tuesday this week (October 11, 2016) at the end of a three-nation tour in Africa which took her to Mali and Niger as well as Ethiopia. During her visit she held talks with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and also visited the headquarters of the African Union.
Prime Minister Hailemariam met with Chancellor Merkel at the National Palace and their discussions covered a range of issues including; peace and security in the region; migration and refugees; natural resource conservation and development; democracy and good governance and trade and investment as well as current situation in Ethiopia. The Prime Minister briefed Chancellor Merkel on the causes of the challenges that Ethiopia is currently facing and the reasons for declaring a State of Emergency. He raised Ethiopia’s concern over the negative role played by extremist Diaspora media in Europe in aggravating the protest. The Prime Minister said Ethiopia would be addressing the social and economic questions raised by the protests itself but dealing with problems like unemployment required support from Ethiopia’s international partners to improve its industrial infrastructure through the development of industrial parks. He had asked the Chancellor to encourage Germany’s public and private sectors to engage in financing the industrial parks to enhance the country’s Jobs Compact initiative. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation of German development assistance which, he said, had always taken into account Ethiopia’s development priorities. The two leaders also exchanged views on the geo-political complexity of the Horn of Africa and the imperative to work together to bring lasting peace in Somalia and South Sudan. The Chancellor praised Ethiopia for hosting such large numbers of refugees and promised to mobilize finance for efforts to assist migrants and refugees. They agreed to work to control illegal human trafficking, and in finding solutions to unemployment problems.
During a joint press conference, Prime Minister Hailemariam said the Chancellor’s visit to Ethiopia marked the beginning of a new chapter in the longstanding bilateral relations and development cooperation between Ethiopia and Germany. He said the visit reaffirmed the commitment of the countries to lift their bilateral cooperation to a higher level, adding that Ethiopia and Germany have had excellent cooperation in human resources development, particularly in areas of water, engineering and education, which has significantly assisted farmers in Ethiopia. On the current situation in Ethiopia, the Prime Minister said the Government was now undertaking a series of relevant reforms in order to address public demands fully. One of these, he noted, was the government’s commitment to reform the country’s electoral laws. These will be implemented following dialogue with opposition parties. Various other democratic platforms will be in place to maximize participation of all stakeholders and guarantee accountability and transparency. Questioned over whether security forces have used excessive force in efforts to contain current protests and violence, Prime Minister Hailemariam said an investigation was already underway by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. He added that this investigation had been launched not because Ethiopia wanted to please the international community, but because “we are responsible to our citizens.”
In her statement, Chancellor Merkel noted that Ethiopia and Germany had achieved tremendous results in human resource capacity building, agriculture and rural development endeavors. Ethiopia had been able to improve the living standards of its citizens so much due to the activities of the country’s poverty reduction efforts, which had lifted millions of people out of poverty and offered extensive educational opportunities. At the same time, Chancellor Merkel stressed the need to work hard to meet the growing demands of youth and expressed Germany’s readiness to extend support to efforts to respond to their demands. Referring to the recent protests and violence in some parts of Ethiopia, she welcomed the government’s reform agenda, but emphasized the need for dialogue among stakeholders. She said the Government had “correctly identified the problems and has set out ways to address them”. The Chancellor said she had made the case that “you should have open talks with people who have problems,” adding that “in a democracy there always needs to be an opposition that has a voice – in the best case in parliament.” She urged the country to open up its politics and ensure police did not use heavy-handed tactics against protesters; they should respond proportionately to protests. The Prime Minister responded by saying the Government was not using excessive force adding “if it happens, we will investigate the units involved.”
During their talks, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Hailemariam reaffirmed the consolidation of the longstanding bilateral relations and development cooperation between Ethiopia and Germany. They have cooperated on a wide variety of topics over many years. These include peace and security in the region; migration and refugees; natural resource conservation and development; democracy and good governance and trade and investment.
The longstanding diplomatic relations go back to 1905 when Ethiopia and Germany signed a treaty of friendship intended to enhance bilateral relationships in diplomatic and economic fields. This was followed by Emperor Minelik’s grant of land for a German diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa in 1907. The embassy is still located there. The same year Ethiopia was provided with embassy premises in Berlin. The centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations was celebrated in 2005. Relations have been steadily enhanced by people-to-people relations going back several hundred years as well as cultural and historic ties underlined by the presence of German institutions in Ethiopia, including the Goethe Institute, and the Frederic Ebert Stiftung Foundation and Munchen Fur Munchen, and cooperation through the twining of cities and universities. There have been an impressive number of high-level visits since Emperor Haile Selassie made a state visit to Germany in 1954 with visits by Prime Minister Meles and Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, and by President Girma Woldegiorgis in 2008. German Federal President Luebke paid a state visit to Ethiopia in 1964, and Chancellor Schroeder and President Kohler both visited Ethiopia in 2004. This week is Chancellor Merkel’s second visit to Ethiopia.
Germany has made clear it views Ethiopia as one of its most important priority partners for economic and political cooperation. The two countries have established a bilateral political consultation mechanism between their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs. The 1964 economic partnership agreement which marked the inception of development cooperation laid a solid foundation for the development cooperation that currently exists. Germany has committed development finance worth 940 million euros to Ethiopia and the two countries have signed a total of over 48 agreements since 1964. Germany has always aligned its development assistances to Ethiopia’s dynamic and ambitious economic plans, including the Growth and Transformation Plans I and II.
GIZ which has been operating in Ethiopia on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development since 1964 currently co-finances 16 projects worth 146.7 million Euros. In line with Ethiopian Government’s objectives, these include labor-market-oriented education and training; and sustainable land management as priority areas. Over the last five years, Germany has also been closely supporting Ethiopia’s green economy policy guaranteeing the revival of 180,000 hectares of land benefiting over 194,000 farmers.
GIZ is also serving as a reliable channel through which other international donors and development partners, including the EU, Canada, Ireland, Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, make financial contributions to current programs and projects.
Recent years have also seen a steady growth in the volume of bilateral trade. According to UN Comtrade data for 2014, Ethiopian exports to Germany were worth $320 million and imports were valued at $418 million. Germany in fact is one of the biggest buyers of Ethiopian goods. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade’s annual export trade evaluation report for 2014, Germany was Ethiopia’s third largest trade partner. Ethiopia’s main exports to Germany are coffee and textiles. German companies have recently begun to invest in Ethiopia, especially in the flower-growing and the leather-processing industries. Currently there are some 161 investment projects in Ethiopia of interest to Germany investors. An investment protection agreement was signed in January 2004 and entered into force in 2006, further boosting the confidence of investors coming from Germany. Chancellor Merkel has now issued an invitation to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to meet with its German counterpart and accelerate trade and investment between the two countries.
During her visit, Chancellor Merkel also visited the headquarters of the African Union where she called African states to do more to stem migration to Europe and address the rise in Islamic extremism. In a speech to the African Union on Tuesday (October 11), Chancellor Merkel said Libya was a “sad example” where state structures had collapsed and the assembly of nations could do more. She said she was “expressly in favor of the African Union bringing its influence to bear to help solve that conflict.” Ms. Merkel vowed to make Africa a priority for Germany’s G20 presidency in 2017. In return, she asked that the African countries do more to stop the growing culture of young people leaving to seek a better life in Europe. She described the migrant exodus in Mali as a “brain drain” of skilled young workers, and said more coherent development policies were needed. “It is important that Africa does not lose its best minds,” she said. On the need to intensify cooperation with Africa on migration and refugees, Chancellor Merkel said the EU was ready to work together with the continent on this issue. She said, “Africa’s economic development means a lot to European stability.” She further pledged to reinforce the financing of efforts dedicated to dealing with migration and refugees.
Africa and Europe, of course, remain each other’s closest neighbors; Africa’s 54 countries and the European Union’s 28 Member States have a shared neighborhood, history and future. Among many platforms in which Germany engages in formal dialogue with Africa is the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership. The Roadmap for 2014-2017, agreed at the 4th EU-Africa Summit in 2014 set out concrete targets in 5 priority areas of cooperation: peace and security; democracy, good governance and human rights; human development, sustainable and inclusive development; continental integration; and global and emerging issues.
Germany pledged 55 million euros this year (2016) in support of African Union programs and joint strategic initiatives. A new element of cooperation between the AU and Germany relates to the Continental Free Trade Area to which Germany made an initial pledge of 5 million euros to support ongoing preparations and negotiations. With its new commitments, Germany’s total support to the African Union since the inception of bilateral cooperation in 2004 exceeds 500 million euros. GIZ is also implementing various projects and programs with the AU, focusing on agriculture, education, peace and security, regional economic integration and good governance.
One prominent example of cooperation on peace and security was the Chancellor’s inauguration of the new Julius Nyerere Peace and Security Building at the AU headquarters built by Germany at a cost of 27 million euros. The building provides a base for the operation of the continental early warning system and the coordination of peacekeeping missions. It’s a landmark project demonstrating the close cooperation between the AU and Germany and goes a long way to enhance the AU’s capacity to meet the challenges of peace and security on the continent.
As efforts intensify to cooperate on migration and refugees and solve problems at their source, Germany has promised to work closely with Africa. It has pledged to reinforce the financing of endeavors dedicated to dealing with migration and refugees. To address the root causes of migration, Germany and the EU have established a new Compact Fund. A similar “Jobs Compact” scheme is intended to support Ethiopia’s industrial transformation and accommodate at least 100,000 jobs for Ethiopians and refugees. It aims to build industrial parks to employ refugees in Ethiopia in which 30% of jobs will be reserved for refugees from neighboring countries. The development partners have also devised a new Investment Fund aiming to support private sector investment in Africa.