German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Ghana on Thursday during a three-nation West Africa visit aimed at boosting investment in a region that is a major source of migrants heading toward Europe.
“I firmly believe that there can only be a prosperous European Union if we can deal with the issues of migration and the issues of partnership with Africa,” the leader of Europe’s largest economy said after emerging from talks with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Merkel is traveling with nearly a dozen German CEOs to help promote business ties. A memorandum of understanding was signed for Volkswagen South Africa to build an assembly plant in Ghana.
The German leader first stopped in Senegal, another of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, and will continue on to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and one of the world’s top oil producers.
Migrant arrivals in Europe across the Mediterranean from Africa and Turkey are at their lowest level in five years but the issue remains sensitive. Merkel, who refused to close Germany’s borders at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, has toughened her stance recently to salvage her government from a rift over the issue.
Some in Europe hope that investing more in West Africa will help keep people in a region plagued with unemployment, dodgy infrastructure, rising extremism and now the effects of climate change from leaving.
Ghana’s president noted that migrants who are illegally in Germany would like to remain there given the chance. While it’s up to the German government to solve the problem “we must address the issue of the illegal migrants in a mutually agreed manner,” he said.
Akufo-Addo also made a pitch for further investment, saying that “the stronger we are the better it is for our youth to stay.”
Senegal and Ghana are two of Africa’s most stable countries. Both have signed on to the Compact with Africa initiative to promote private investment that Germany launched last year during its presidency of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations.
Nigeria, West Africa’s regional power, is plagued by widespread corruption and security threats that include Boko Haram and Islamic State-linked extremists in the north, violent clashes between herders and farmers in the central region and oil militants in the south.
A number of world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and, this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May have visited West Africa in recent months with some combination of business, security and migration in mind.
The international community has interest not only in sub-Saharan Africa’s growing economic potential but also in its booming population, which is expected to double by 2050.