CW 34/2022: Aiming high
Press Review 19 August 2022 to 26 August 2022

Foreign Minister Baerbock in Morocco

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock flew to Morocco to meet with her counterpart Nasser Bourita in the capital Rabat on Thursday. The meeting focused on both sides’ willingness to resume bilateral cooperation in the key areas of security, energy and climate policy, development cooperation as well as cooperation in the economic sector and in cultural and education policy. The Joint declaration, consisting of 59 points, focused on combating the climate crisis and the associated development of green hydrogen. In doing so, both states want to draw on the “Green Hydrogen Alliance” founded in 2020 and the German-Moroccan energy partnership that has already existed since 2012. In January, Morocco was named in a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) as one of the four countries with significant potential for exporting green hydrogen. This potential is now also to be realised in concrete projects within the framework of the alliance signed two years ago in order to establish an active green energy partnership.Already in February of this year, Baerbock and Bourita had joined forces in a video conference, thus breaking the diplomatic crisis that had lasted for months and at the height of which Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Berlin for several months. The crisis was triggered by differences over the Western Sahara conflict. Germany’s criticism of the US decision to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara at the end of 2020 and the convening of a UN Security Council meeting on the matter at the time angered Morocco’s government. Although differences on this issue remain between the two countries, after their talks Baerbock and Bourita jointly support the efforts of the United Nations to resolve the conflict.

China partially waives debts of 17 African countries

As reported in international media just this week, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced partial debt relief for 17 African countries back on 18 August. Africa’s largest bilateral lender will waive 23 interest-free loans that were due at the end of 2021. Further details on the monetary extent and the debtors were not disclosed. The announcement was made at a follow-up meeting to last year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was meant to push for the implementation of the points decided at the forum and was attended by Chinese and African diplomats. During the high-level forum last year, China had announced a 33% reduction in its financial support. Concerns about increasing indebtedness of African borrowers and slowing economic growth at home represented a conflict of interest in Beijing, which disbursed at least 1180 loans amounting to 160 billion USD to African governments between 2000 and 2020. At the current follow-up meeting, the Chinese foreign minister stated, among other things, that he would provide new food aid to 17 African states, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia. Agreements had also been reached with twelve states to abolish customs duties on 98% of their respective export products to the People’s Republic in order to increase the competitiveness of their goods. Experts interpret the announcements and especially the debt relief as China’s reaction to accusations of a “debt trap” and to the current low point in US-Chinese relations. Although China has repeatedly cancelled smaller debts of expired interest-free loans before, at the current meeting Yi also stressed the importance of the Sino-African partnership in the face of “hegemonic and bullying practices”, which could refer to the visit the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. Furthermore, Yi indicated that China opposes any interference by foreign powers in African affairs, while welcoming the African partners’ commitment to the One China policy.

In other news

Since last Tuesday, Mount Kilimanjaro has been enjoying internet service. Tanzania has set up a broadband network at an altitude of 3720 metres. By the end of the year, the summit at 5895 metres will also be equipped with internet. According to Tanzanian Minister of Information Nape Nnauye, the high-speed internet on the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain serves the safety of climbers as well as to increase the earnings of the state-owned mobile telecommunication company. In addition, the minister hopes that the internet connection will boost the tourism industry. By making it easier to share photos on social networks directly from the slopes of the mountain, it is hoped to create a greater media presence and thus attract more visitors. Mount Kilimanjaro is an important source of tourism revenue for Tanzania, and the East African country is increasingly trying to expand its appeal.

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