As Head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and then as President of Germany, Horst Köhler campaigned for a real partnership with Africa. He is convinced that Europe will not have a bright future in the long term if Africa’s economy does not reach its potential. Köhler explained that Africa is currently still being courted by other nations, particularly due to its abundance of resources. At the same time, however, the tremendous rate of population growth in the region is a force to be reckoned with. Despite all this, “Europe is expending most of its political energy defending itself against disintegration” instead of developing a clear strategy for dealing with geopolitical changes.
Many Europeans are following the impact of China's investments in Africa with a sense of unease – the country wants to invest USD 60 billion in expanding the continent’s infrastructure over the next three years. Yet, according to Köhler, African heads of state are asking Europe: “Who else will do it?” “If we don't want to leave Africa to China, we need to make more attractive offers,” Köhler appealed, adding that anyone thinking strategically about the long term must recognise the enormous potential in Africa. “Perhaps the German economy has made it too easy for itself by concentrating its efforts on Asian growth markets up to now.”
According to Köhler, this is not just a matter of commodities but also people and the creative potential they hold, which is now increasingly beginning to emerge. He cited as examples the BRCK WiFi router, Mara, the first smartphone made in Africa, and the M-Pesa mobile payment system from Kenya that is now used internationally. In 2018, four of the world’s five fastest-growing economies were African. In light of this, Köhler believes it is in Germany's interest as a “supplier of growth” to help African countries to develop a manufacturing industry. However, greater financial and political investment is urgently required to achieve this.