Germany, Europe’s leading nation, is a power that welcomes cooperation with emerging powers such as India and China and continues to steadily deepen relations with these countries in trade and development related negotiations.
These strong ties with the emerging powers of the “Global South” indicate that we are moving towards an international system where Germany is the major Western power in a world dominated by Asian countries. This is not to say that the United States will not continue to exert significant influence, but in the current political atmosphere, Germany’s continued commitment to development and climate change increase its legitimacy and leadership on the world stage.
The Wider World
In a speech largely triggered by Trump’s overseas visit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was recently quoted as saying, “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands” signaling a shift away from the previous strength characterising relations with the U.S. and U.K. The leadership Merkel exerts over the EU as well as the “free world” is especially welcome to India, as Germany-India relations have grown stronger and negotiations continue for a free trade deal between India and the E.U.
Germany’s leadership on the world stage is increasingly visible on the African continent, especially in the context of decreased aid and development cooperation from the U.S. and U.K. Emerging powers and global influencers are acutely aware of the fact that Africa is the future, and thus recognize that influence in Africa, “the last frontier of global capitalism” is key to their continued success and legitimacy.
Long considered marginal to the world economy, the African continent is in reality intensely connected to world economic events and is a net creditor to the rest of the world. Germany has been steadily strengthening its development cooperation to Africa and has emerged as the power in Europe who is willing to navigate changing global power shifts in cooperation with emerging powers. With the view that Africa is at the forefront of global modernity, the interactions of world powers on the continent represent a preview of the world to come.
Germany’s Marshall Plan
Unveiled in February of this year is Germany’s Marshall Plan with Africa, not for Africa. Announced by the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, at the African Development Bank, the importance of the rhetoric with Africa underscores the strong efforts on the part of African actors and its partners in the global multilateral system to address the continent’s continuing challenges.
This Marshall Plan proposes a “new level” of equal cooperation between African countries and Germany, with a particular focus on the areas of education, trade, business development, and energy. Better market access for African exports, an end to illicit financial flows and tax evasion, fair trade rules, and strong incentives against land-grabbing of resources are all top priorities of the ambitious plan.
Germany is working in partnership with the development vision outlined by the African Union in the form of Agenda 2063. Müller views Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda as Agenda 2063 “champions”. The plan looks to support these countries in particular and also support other African countries actively committed to Agenda 2063 aims.
A New Scramble for Africa
What is important to note here is Germany’s capacity and willingness to reform its development cooperation strategies. Traditional aid flows and development cooperation from Western powers have been characterised by a “top down” nature, in contrast to the partnership, mutual benefit, and cooperation rhetoric that so dominates the Chinese, Indian, and other emerging powers’ approach to involvement with African countries.
Other European countries, such as Norway and Finland, have also reformed their development cooperation approaches in this manner but lack the financial power, geographic size, former colonial ties, and major political influence on the world stage of their powerful European leader.
In what has been called the “new scramble for Africa”, analysts have pointed out that China has become the “partner of choice,” but this does not mean that African countries cannot maintain strong relations with multiple partners. In what could be called a “development fusion,” African governments are able to leverage developmental best practices and learn from the failures of other states in charting their own development path guided by an African vision.
China has certainly carved out a substantial piece of influence in Africa, but there will always be cooperation with Western powers and Germany has only increased its development activities on the continent. The current situation in Africa suggests a world where Germany is the prominent Western leader, a partner who is willing to reform and who has the financial power to drive significant impact.