Interview: Brigitte Zypries
How important is energy security for Germany?
BRIGITTE ZYPRIES: Security of supply plays a major role in our energy policy. Therefore, we aim to diversify our sources of energy imports. This is also what the Ukraine-Russia conflict teaches us. As a country with very large oil and gas deposits, Nigeria is an important trading partner for Germany in the energy sector. Unfortunately, oil imports have been declining since 2015; oil production has been reduced by attacks on pipelines in the Niger Delta, as well as a lack of maintenance. Germany is assisting Nigeria in its efforts to end the practice of flaring the natural gas produced during oil production. Thus, the obtained gas could become another factor in Europe’s gas supply. It may be transported by Nigeria’s planned Trans-Sahara pipeline for natural gas.
In what ways can African countries work to replicate Germany’s successes in vocational training?
ZYPRIES: The success of our so-called dual system of vocational training is based on a combination of on-the-job training within a company and school-based training. Together with German business we support vocational training in Africa by imparting knowledge about our dual training system. Education is one of the pillars of my strategy Pro! Africa. We are expanding our skilled experts programme to selected bilateral chambers of commerce in Africa. This includes establishing networks with relevant stakeholders, drafting a needs-based training concept and delivering services for training instructors. In my view, vocational training can only have a positive impact in African countries if it meets the requirements of society and the local labour market.
What objectives in Germany’s Marshall Plan with Africa do you see as most essential?
ZYPRIES: In my view the most important objective is to generate more private investments and private sector economic activity. The federal government strongly promotes these issues within the G20 Initiative Compact with Africa.
I am convinced that it is crucial to move away from the outworn donor-receiver mentality and instead turn to a deeper economic cooperation with more involvement from the private sector. In my strategy Pro! Africa I recently presented several measures and instruments that move us in this direction. This will help to bolster sustainable growth in Africa. The Marshall Plan With Africa supports my initiative from a development point of view.
How can Germany work with Nigeria to address current migration challenges?
ZYPRIES: Migration of qualified immigrants, in general, holds the potential to help Germany overcome demographic challenges. Recently, net migration to Germany has been heavily influenced by refugee migration, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also from a number of African countries. Approximately 13,000 people from Nigeria applied for refugee status in 2016, making it number nine in the list of countries of origin.
By definition we know very little about the extent of undocumented migration. Because undocumented migrants do not show up in the official labour market figures, it is difficult to identify their impact on the German economy. However, undocumented migration may have an economic impact, as a result of private consumption spending.
Joint efforts to improve the living conditions in Africa are essential. In particular, we need to work to combat poverty, hunger, diseases and environmental problems. We need to provide people with more economic opportunities. Improving these areas could contribute to reducing the incentives for irregular migration. Germany actively takes part in considerations on the EU-level in this respect.
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