How intelligent is Bono from U2
Some people may roll their eyes when they think of international conferences such as the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bonn or the Munich Security Conference, which I will now be attending. Granted, I used to do that too. But after attending meetings like this for almost two decades and getting on the nerves of the other participants, I know that these events don't just give nice speeches, they make sense. The last three G-8 and G-7 summits under German leadership were turning points for debt relief for poor countries, the fight against AIDS and food security.
When, as is currently the case, the very concept of global cooperation is questioned in a bizarre way, Europeans like me thank the Germans for their leadership role. With the humanity with which Germany responded to the refugee crisis, it turned the European thought into a feeling.
By placing strategic cooperation with Africa on the agenda of the G20 foresight, Germany is once again showing leadership. On the one hand it recognizes the economic opportunities of the huge neighboring continent, on the other hand it sees the stability risks that threaten there.
Syria, Nigeria, Boko Haram
Syria shows this abundantly. The upheavals that the civil war triggered not only for the people there have also changed Europe, its institutions and the European idea itself. And Syria is not the only country on the verge of chaos, not the only non-governmental area in which violent extremism is on the rise. Syria is - or was - a country with around 20 million inhabitants.
93 million people live in Egypt. In Nigeria 186 million. What would we do if a country ten times the size of Syria caught fire? A few months ago I was able to get an idea of the situation in northeast Nigeria. I have seen the destruction caused by Boko Haram in the eyes of Amina, a 20 year old mother of six malnourished children who lost her husband to Boko Haram.
How she is now raising her children so that they do not become extremists concerns us all. I don't think Nigeria will go up in flames - even if that is the stated aim of Boko Haram. But if that happens, our countries will not be prepared for it - politically, economically or militarily. I hear that from military and security experts.
Your problems become our problems
They also say: prevention is cheaper than intervention. By this they mean civilian measures - to improve living conditions and to promote stability in fragile states. We need to combine our security strategy with a development strategy that ensures that these countries provide healthcare, education and infrastructure to the people. Without security, development is impossible, but without development, security is not sustainable.
If we get this wrong, fragile states become failed states, and their problems become our problems. If we do it right, the success of these states will also be our success. Your stability will add to ours.
So what can the G 20 do? If you ask the people of Africa, you will hear three things: education, employment and participation. Specifically, this could mean the following, provided the G20s roll up their sleeves:
We need a plan that ensures that all girls can go to school. For 130 million girls around the world, this is still an unfulfilled dream. Every year a girl goes to school, her later income increases by twelve percent. If she learns to read, the likelihood that her future child will die before their fifth birthday is halved. Studies suggest that youth education can reduce a country's risk of conflict by 20 percent.
The African population will more than double from 1.2 billion today to 2.5 billion people by 2050. Either this restless young generation will find work or they will find trouble. The next generation will bring a demographic dividend for the continent if - and only if - African countries and their partners continue to develop tried and tested initiatives for job creation while at the same time implementing reforms to make better use of their own resources. This dividend can and should be for the benefit of Africa and Germany. I hear that of the roughly 400,000 German companies operating abroad, only 1,000 are active in Africa - a missed opportunity. The Compacts with Africa by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble are a course correction.
Reforms are essential so that citizens can get more involved and invest more. Corruption is more deadly than any disease - it drains money that should go to education, health and employment. Germany is crucial for European laws to support the fight against corruption and capital flight. Therefore, Germany must lead the EU in disclosing the owners of shady letterbox companies. More development cooperation and additional investments must be made conditional on good governance. This can accelerate the fight against corruption and encourage many connected young people to use their cell phones to track cash flows.
I am happy to be talking about these ideas in Germany this week because there is no country that better understands the relationship between development and security. Surveys show that 84 percent of Germans are in favor of greater financial support for African countries. That is compassionate and intelligent. Perhaps this realization is the enduring legacy of the Marshall Plan, which liberated Germany from despair and destruction after the Second World War and put the entire continent on a safe footing.
Perhaps this is also the reason why some voices in Germany take up the calls of leading African entrepreneurs and economic experts such as Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest businessman and philanthropist, and Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, when they call for a modern Marshall Plan. The details and the circumstances are completely different, but the ambitious goal is correct because the task is just as historic.
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