CW 8/2022: On the Possibilities and Limits of Diplomacy
Press Review 18 February 2022 to 25 February 2022

Federal President Steinmeier visits Senegal

During his three-day visit to Senegal, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for more intensive cooperation between Europe and Africa. During a meeting with Senegal’s President Macky Sall, Steinmeier emphasized the key role Senegal plays as a consolidated democracy in a close and successful partnership between Africa and Europe. He pointed to the deteriorating security conditions in the Sahel region following the military coups in Burkina Faso and Mali and assured his host that the debate in Germany on further participation in international military missions in Mali would be conducted responsibly. Germany currently has around 1,037 soldiers deployed in Mali as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA). Another 328 soldiers are part of the EU military training mission in Mali (EUTM). Sall, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, called for the continuation of the Bundeswehr presence in Mali against the background of the announcement of the French troop withdrawal. Senegal itself participates in MINUSMA with a contingent of 1,471 soldiers and also provides police and administrative personnel. In Germany, the future of the mission is uncertain in view of recent developments; the German Bundestag will vote in May on extending the Bundeswehr’s participation in both missions. Meanwhile, another important topic of discussion between the two presidents was the Corona vaccine distribution. In this context, Steinmeier welcomed the planned establishment of a mobile vaccine production facility with the help of the German company BioNTech, whose future site he visited. Furthermore he met with members of parliament and business representatives during his first official trip to the West African country. He also visited the Goethe-Institut in Dakar, where he laid the foundation stone for a new building. Steinmeier’s trip represents the first visit to Senegal by a German President in 60 years and thus only the second ever visit by a German President to the West African nation. President Sall last visited Berlin in August 2021.

Opening of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia

On Sunday, the first of a total of 13 turbines of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia went into operation. After more than ten years of construction, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described the commissioning as “the beginning of a new era” for Africa’s second most populous country. The first turbine alone is expected to feed 375 MW into Ethiopia’s power grid, whose total power generation capacity has so far been around 4,500 MW. GERD is intended to meet the energy needs not only of its own country, but also of the whole of East Africa from as early as 2024. At the beginning of February, there were already talks with a delegation in Nairobi about the first electricity exports. The 1.8 km long and 145 m high dam, which is to produce a total of 5,150 MW of electricity after completion, has been a serious bone of contention with the Nile riparian states Egypt and Sudan since the project began in 2011. Egypt, which draws over 95% of its irrigation and drinking water supplies from the Blue Nile, condemned the inauguration, describing Ethiopia’s unilateral action as a threat to the stability of the region. The country, which in the past has also not ruled out a military response to the commissioning, on Thursday requested urgent mediation talks from the AU on the commissioning of the dam. Sudan also called on all parties to reach a binding agreement between the three states in the talks. In recent years, there have been repeated attempts at mediation between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan – without success. The last inconclusive talks had taken place in April 2021 under the leadership of the AU in Kinshasa. Last summer, Egypt appealed to the UN for help, but the UN recommended that the AU-led mediation talks be continued, which Egypt rejected at the time, citing the continental organisation’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. Even now, Egypt accuses AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki of bias. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s Abiy also celebrated the commissioning of the dam after 15 months of Tigray conflict as a domestic image gain. At the same time, he called the dam an opportunity for Europe to diversify its energy imports in view of the fractured relationship with Russia. A second turbine is to go into operation next month.

In other news

Last weekend, the first Africa Schools Champions Cup took place in Kinshasa. 12,000 school children celebrated the participating U16 teams from six African countries and football. Boys’ and girls’ teams from Ethiopia, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa took part in the competition initiated by FIFA. At the Stade de Martys, the girls’ team from Morocco took the title, while the host team from the Democratic Republic of Congo won the boys’ competition. FIFA President Gianno Infantino, who attended the celebrations, was overwhelmed by the success and saw the event not only as an opportunity to break down cultural barriers and forge friendships, but also as a way to increase global competitiveness in football.

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