German Chancellor Angela Merkel is undertaking her first multi-day African trip since 2011. Merkel will visit Mali, Niger and then Ethiopia for a one day visit in each country.
Her visit is believed to be linked with seeking investment opportunities which her government hopes will drive economic development in Africa and in the long run curb future waves of migration to Europe.
She kicks off the visits to two west African countries, Mali on Sunday and Niger the following day. She will then round up the trip with a visit to east Africa, where she will visit Ethiopia.
“The migration pressure will increase dramatically in the coming years if we do not manage to generate economic prospects in African countries,” German Development Minister Gerd Mueller told Reuters.
Merkel is on record to have described Africa, with its population of 1.2 billion people, as “the central problem” in the migration issue. She said last month that the EU needed to establish migrant deals with north African countries along the lines of the Turkey deal.
Merkel visited three African countries in 2011, Kenya in the east, Angola in the central African region and Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.
A flood of almost a million migrants into Germany last year, many from Syria and Iraq, has hit Merkel’s popularity at home.
A European Union deal with Turkey helped stem the flow from the Middle East and Asia, but thousands of people still risk the perilous Mediterranean crossing every day from Africa to Europe.
In Mali, Germany has over 550 soldiers as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission and she will be expected to visit them. Merkel earned praise for her open hand policy to refugees arriving in the country but that has led to political hurdles back home for her party.
Merkel, who has yet to declare if she will seek a fourth term as chancellor next year, wants to discuss bilateral aid and business investment on her trip, rather than aiming to secure any deals to return migrants there.
“Being an open society means that we should try to aim for a kind of balance such that the first thing for young Africans, when they get a smartphone in their hands, isn’t ‘I have to go where I see a better world,’ but rather that they live in a country in which things are at least getting better step by step,” she told an industry conference on Thursday.