When considering the G20 Africa Partnership Conference, the tabloids and pundits will focus on Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump, as well as his daughter Ivanka Trump and the “America First” international policy, all for good reason and ratings.
Yet the storyline from the G20 may simply be that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking charge on the global stage, and at the top of her agenda is African development.
The G20 Africa Partnership conference this past week in Berlin displayed the growing German voice and Africa’s symbolic ascension in importance above climate change….okay Africa did not leapfrog climate change. But there were a number of strategic initiatives that came to the forefront.
Chancellor Merkel emphasized women’s economic empowerment. She pushed an agreement to reduce the pay gap between men and women. Empowering women in developing countries is an issue that G20 countries can work together on. At the G20 summit in Brisbane (Australia) in 2014, the leaders agreed to push for a 25 percent reduction by 2025 in the labor force participation rates between women and men.
Chancellor Merkel reiterated this goal, however, she tamed it with the recognition that the likely success depends on the ability of G20 leaders to remain in constant conversation and engagement with other country leaders, as the G20 has no enforcement mechanism or governing power in its back-pocket.
Another significant component of empowering women is backing women’s entrepreneurship. The G20 Summit incorporated the talking points from the W20 Summit in Berlin back in April. For example, the W20 Summit emphasized three specific points for women’s entrepreneurship: (1) database on women’s use of loans must be improved, (2) women should be granted enhanced access to business startup loans, and (3) investment in technical education and training of girls and women should be increased.
It is the vein of the W20 thinking that Ivanka Trump shared the spotlight with Chancellor Merkel and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to formally roll out the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (“We-Fi”), a World Bank facility focused on promoting women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries.
The $1 billion-plus initiative will provide both financial and non-financial resources, including loans, technical assistance, and mentorship opportunities to women in emerging economies. The facility will be welcomed in African markets, particularly as women’s empowerment has rightly risen as a core component to African economic growth and development.
The G20 countries are specifically interested in preventing the greater global pandemics that have far reaching effects. The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa reached the U.S. via the medical staff and tourists traveling to the region. The movement of individuals across borders and continents has effectively ensured that the best control against dangerous diseases is focusing on preventative measures in the source country.
The G20 countries emphasized the need for engagement with developing countries on policy and funding to support policy implementation. Developing improved medicines is also vital, as many developing countries are reporting that the resistance of bacteria, parasites and viruses to drugs have increased in recent years. Accordingly, a G20 working group was approved to focus on this issue of antimicrobial resistance and improved usage of antibiotics.
The G20 countries also discussed technology, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed India’s partnership with African countries. Prime Minister Modi highlighted technology and infrastructure investment to boost “financial inclusion & financial infusion” as well strengthen countries’ capacity to maintain long-term economic growth.
Chancellor Merkel’s attention to Africa, euphemistically being called the “Merkel plan for Africa”, will be well received throughout the coming months. But the question will center around how Germany keeps the G20 leaders interested, at the table, and ready to provide funding. European Union leaders will want to slow migration and will see security and economic growth in source countries as more strategic.
Technology will be central to strengthening cyber security and combating terrorism and disease. That line of thinking will surely keep major nations interested in technology in Africa. Germany pushing this agenda makes sense because it wants to facilitate more German innovation. But, as terrorism and migration remains high on the G20 agenda, Africans may want to be cautious about how long entrepreneurship and empowerment can dominate talking points. Still, African aficionados are basking momentarily in Africa’s ascension at the G20.
Kurt Davis Jr. is an investment banker focusing on the natural resources and energy sectors, with private equity experience in emerging economies. He earned a law degree in tax and commercial law at the University of Virginia’s School of Law and a master’s of business administration in finance, entrepreneurship and operations from the University of Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.