JEAN-JACQUES CORNISH: The Franco-German example that Africa needs to follow


Essential for survival in Africa is being able to take the rough with the smooth.

So, after British Premier Boris Johnson told an investment conference in London that a post-Brexit Britain would be able to open its borders to Africa, there was hardly a blink about US President Donald Trump tipping off the Wall Street Journal in Davos that he was about to add four African countries to those subject to US travel bans.

Johnson believes the continent with some of the fastest growing economies in the world should be courted by Britain to make up on business it is losing by leaving the European Union.

Trump, by contrast, believes there are redneck American votes to be won by adding Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea to his list of majority-Muslim countries whose subjects find it increasingly difficult to visit the US.

Understandably, this dichotomy from two of the continent’s oldest Western friends will drive many Africans even further behind the Great Wall of China.

Beijing’s burgeoning links with Africa are based on non-interference in the affairs of the countries with which they are doing business.

This is an extremely attractive quality among those African leaders whose undemocratic, authoritarian and corrupt practices and human rights violations put them beyond the pale of traditional European partners.

A very strong message of support came from two of these this week.

France and German celebrated the anniversary of the signing of bilateral friendship treaties in 1963 and 2019 in an unprecedentedly novel way.

In South Africa, they exchanged ambassadors for the day. German Ambassador Martin Schäffer and his French counterpart Aurèlien Lechevallier gave an upbeat media briefing about swapping desks for the day.

They said it was more than a symbolic nod to the reconciliation between the two engines of the European Union.

“Without German-French reconciliation there could not have been a united Europe,” asserted Schäfer.

It was also a salutary lesson to Africa about the lasting value of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Both ambassadors noted this was particularly germane to South Africa with its troubled history.

The Franco-German example was particularly relevant at this time of commercial tension between the United States and China.

Africa needed a more robust, more united and stronger Europe to be a reliable partner.

“This is the right moment to show the convergence between Germany and France,” said Lechevallier.

“We are moving together with Africa creating investment and economic opportunities.

“There already are many French and German companies creating tens of thousands of jobs and we want South African companies to invest in France and Germany.

Schäfer added: “It is a simple fact that Europe - and Germany and France - are an integral part of that and by far Africa’s biggest investment partner.

“We do not come and make a quick buck. We come and we stay and we become corporate citizens.”

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish