Demographic Bomb

Changing Tack with Africa

Gerd Müller in Afrika
Pushing for a Marshall Plan for Africa is a key priority of Berlin's foreign policy. Source: DPA.

The forces currently at work in Africa could either tear the continent apart – and seriously shake Europe in the process – or could put it on a long-term path to growth for the first time and possibly even make a target for investment out of a continent accustomed to receiving aid. Current United Nations forecasts predict that the population of sub-Saharan countries will more than double by 2050 – from just over 1 billion now to at least 2.2 billion. Whether these people really will become enthusiastic consumers and manufacturers one day, or just create social dynamite will be decided in the next generation. It remains unclear where all the schools, hospitals and above all the millions of jobs for many young Africans will come from.

In light of the dramatic situation around the Mediterranean Sea, there are growing concerns in Europe that migration from the south could get out of control again and finally overrun Europe. It was only sheer panic which drove Chancellor Angela Merkel – who has displayed little interest in Africa over the years – to make the continent a focus of the G20 summit. And the fact that it merited no more than a few platitudes in the final declaration was certainly due to the many other global flashpoints. Furthermore, most G20 states, including China and Japan, are not among the refugees’ favorite destinations and are therefore much less concerned than Germany.

At least this time, unlike at previous summits, the talk was no longer about increasing the levels of development aid, which has proved inefficient, and more about a greater involvement of the private sector. But past experiences show that it’s far from certain that it will be enough to establish more small industry in Africa and to arrange a few business sponsorships for countries like Tunisia or Ghana, which have better governance anyway, while ignoring key countries like the Congo, the ailing core of Africa.

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