German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has paid a working visit to Africa intended to strengthen cooperation. While the significance of this should not be over-stretched, European Union has generally prioritized Africa with its latest policy scheme under the Global Gateway Initiative. The Global Gateway Initiative is a worldwide strategy by the European Union to invest in infrastructure projects and establish economic partnerships, based on certain principles.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Germany turned to Qatar for liquified gas. But an eruption of violence focused on the Gaza Strip raises fears of disruption in the Middle East.
With the fast-changing geopolitical situation, members of the European Union have individually focusing on Africa. Late October, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took a smart review of the existing economic relations with West Africa, by visiting Federal Republic of Nigeria and Republic of Ghana, keeping eyes on economic sectors especially trade and energy. Trade tops the agenda as Scholz interacted with Nigerian leader on West Africa trip on October 29.
In Abuja, the new capital city of Nigeria, Chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks with Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu. The main point of discussion centred on how to diversify its trade and expand economic partnerships in the energy-rich West African region.
In his third trip to Africa since he took office in 2021, and his second this year, Scholz pushed for further development of Nigeria’s capacity to meet local needs even as Germany seeks improved trade relations with its second-largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. Germany-Nigeria trade volume is estimated to be about 3 billion euros annually.
Major aspects of the two countries’ cooperation include working with Nigeria to help tackle regional and global issues such as migration, security and rampant coups in West and Central Africa, Scholz told Tinubu during their meeting in the capital of Abuja. “There are a lot of chances not just from gas and oil … but for better using the capacities of your country, but also for going into investments for the future, which is about hydrogen,” said Scholz.
Experts have since described Africa as a potential exporter of hydrogen energy amid calls for energy transition. The German leader, who has come under enormous domestic pressure to address issues related to migration to Germany, suggested “co-management (of the issue) which is benefiting the two countries the best.”
A framework is also being developed with the European Union to improve migration and ensure among other things that “those who have no the right to stay in my country can go back and should go back and this is part of something that is a win win story for the two countries,” Scholz said.
Before his meeting with Bola Tinubu, Scholz told Lagos-based Punch newspaper that Germany has a “considerable demand for natural gas” and “concrete amounts” of supplies should be agreed on in negotiations between Nigerian gas producers and German gas traders.
Nigeria has Africa’s largest proven gas reserves — estimated to be 202 trillion cubic feet — and has been keen on working toward helping meet Europe’s needs after Russia sharply reduced natural gas flows following its war with Ukraine. Germany, though, has diversified its gas supplies from Russia since the war.
The Nigerian leader Bola Tinubu said he had a “very deep discussion” on gas investments with the German chancellor and sought Germany’s support in helping to address the country’s security and economic challenges.
“Nigeria is still crawling, but we are determined to change the narrative and bring about a transformative government in the country,” Tinubu said as reported by the Associated Press. “We still need very much support in that area. And for us to be able to sustain democracy, rule of law and freedom for our people, we need to fight for democracy.”
Scholz also met with Omar Alieu Touray, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, West Africa’s regional bloc, and they discussed how to address the recent coups in parts of Africa. On October 30, he opened a German-Nigerian business forum in the economic hub of Lagos before heading to Ghana, the last leg of his trip on October 31.
With no more new description, Africa comes on and off for some of the European leaders. As such, few smart-African countries are also upto the task, this outline more concretely what they wanted to gain from the reviewed relationship. These smart African countries are neutral, usually don’t shout geopolitical slogans and are benefiting based on the geopolitical complexities and the so-called multipolarity.
Germany, like many European members, needs talented specialists that are in Nigeria and other African countries. “There is a need in Germany, for people that have talent and want to work in our country in a way which is a regular path for migrants. We are working intensely in this field and we want to get (make) more progress and get things agreed in detail,” Scholz said.
“We are ready to enter into a partnership to improve the migration situation. Since other young and vibrant people can go through the process according to the immigration law of the country, to accept them as long as they are of good behaviour and good character. We are ready to work together in that direction,” Tinubu said in remarks.
The Nigerian president assured his German counterpart of a conducive business environment in the most populous West African nation. Tinubu’s administration is working assiduously to reform the economic and business environment to promote efficiency, according to the widely-circulated media People’s Vanguard.
In the West African region, major energy producers such as Nigeria and Ghana are still on the list of European Union. One of the barriers is chronic underinvestment in the energy sector. Germany has pledged more investments for the development of infrastructure, including roads and railways in the region. That’s something that a business delegation accompanying Scholz may be able to address. Nigeria and Ghana might also be seen as potential sources of labor as Germany’s population is increasingly aged out of the workforce.
Tinubu said that given Nigeria’s sizable resources, Europe has indicated its readiness to encourage investments in a gas pipeline. Nigeria is also ready to facilitate the shipment of liquefied gas to Europe. Germany – which switched off its last nuclear power plants this year and weaned off Russian pipeline gas during last year’s energy crisis – will need large volumes of LNG to run its power-hungry industry. So far, Europe’s economic powerhouse gets crude oil from Nigeria, but not gas. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, also wants to make business deals in the areas of raw materials with European partners.
Scholz last year also visited Senegal, where he offered German help to open up gas fields off the coast. The West African country expects to deliver first quotas of the fuel in the second half of 2024. Germany seeks trade relationship with Nigeria, which is its second-largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, looking at Ghana and other West African countries to increase business markets.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz with President of the ECOWAS Commission Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, signed a new €80.75 million financial and technical cooperation commitment to support ongoing programmes and projects under the ECOWAS-German Cooperation for the period 2023-2024. The German Government has shown commitment to ECOWAS’ Integration Agenda in West Africa.
Discussions during the meeting focused on strengthening relationships and cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, climate change, energy, trade and enhancement of movement of goods and services between ECOWAS and the European Union.