Germany Wants Closer Ties with Africa

Over the last few years, the German Foreign Ministry has begun using its department of Cultural Affairs to reconnect with the African continent

June 15th, 2016
Gaspard Fontaine, News from Berlin

For a long time, Africa was not a priority for Germany’s foreign relations. But things are changing and Berlin is looking more and more south of the Mediterranean toward Africa. In order to create closer ties, Germany relies on using culture as a tool.

The German Foreign Ministry uses a full range of method to reconnect with Africa, and most of all are cultural. Debates between intellectuals, cooperation with the civil societies, reinforcement of the German cultural infrastructures abroad or cultural coproduction are at the heart of the German African foreign policy.

This approach is enabled by the department of Cultural Affairs among the German Foreign Ministry. Run by Andreas Görgen, the department of Cultural Affairs has a budget of 870 million euros for 2016, almost 100 million more than in 2014. Part of this budget benefits the Goethe Institute and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, which is in charge of giving scholarships to help foreign students come to Germany to study. Those institutions are doing a great deal to promote German culture in Africa.

In Africa, Germany is very active in cultural coproduction. It supports three websites promoting African artists; each website received 100.000 Euros from the German Foreign Ministry. “Contemporary” is a platform for international art from an African perspective: the music in African, the website dedicated to the African music; and the website “Mokoloa” exists which aims to bring more awareness about the African cinema.

As a result, more and more African artists and intellectuals are coming to Berlin, seduced by the perspectives in the German capital and by the generosity of the public institutions. It is for example the case of Alya Sebti, a 33 years old Moroccan in charge of the Ifa Gallery, a contemporary art gallery depending on the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for International Relations).

The renewed German interest for Africa also has some repercussions in Germany. “German elites are becoming more sensitive to the African maters”, said Andreas Eckert from Humboldt University in Berlin.

In Berlin, a civilization museum will open in 2019 at the Humboldt Forum. The museum is a sensitive topic because it brings back the colonial past of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs explains during his diplomatic trips to Africa. The museum will be a symbol of a Germany opening to the world.


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