German chancellor and president begin African energy tour

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Hamzat Obafemi, deputy governor of Lagos State, attend the opening of the German-Nigerian Business Forum in the economic metropolis of Lagos.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz embarked on his third official visit to Africa, starting on Sunday. His primary focus during this tour is to bolster economic ties with Nigeria and Ghana. Scholz first landed in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, where the chancellor met with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu and discussed bolstering trade with a focus on energy and railways.

With the aim to enhance German natural gas imports, and pre-existing contracts for Nigerian oil, the chancellor’s first leg of the three-day trip concentrates on Nigeria, a pivotal country on the African continent, and where a Nigeria-Germany event took place in Lagos on Monday, where Scholz promised to back Nigeria’s bid to join the G20 group of the world’s largest economies and reiterated his desire for the two countries to partner in the production of hydrogen and trade LNG.

Nigeria currently stands as Germany’s second-largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, with German exports amounting to €1 billion in 2022. Chancellor Scholz showed that German direct investments in Nigeria totalled 150 million euros (159 million dollars).

Scholz presented several sectors, including infrastructure, energy, agriculture, mineral resources, communication technologies, railways, and logistics, as potential areas for German investment. Following discussions in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, the chancellor will visit Ghana, his second stop.

The renewed African trip by the chancellor aligns with the German government’s strategy to forge fresh alliances in economic and energy policies. This initiative is partly in response to Germany’s increased energy dependencies on Russia. German companies are interested in securing gas supplies from Nigeria and are eager to collaborate with Nigerian gas firms and the German government to forge joint initiatives to advance hydrogen production as a key future energy source.

Scholz underscored Nigeria’s significance as a crucial partner for Germany, both politically and economically. Besides the energy sector, he talked about the potential for expanded cooperation in other areas, such as migration and security.

Nigeria, with its vast reserves of gold, oil, natural gas, and mineral resources, is positioned as one of the most important countries in West Africa. The region serves as a focal point for migration and smuggling routes amid the challenges posed by Islamist terrorist groups. As a stable democracy in a region historically plagued by coups, Nigeria faces an intricate blend of economic crisis and escalating uncertainty, especially in the north, where it counters challenges with jihadist armed groups. The UN reports nearly 3.5 million people are displaced in Nigeria, with 300,000 Nigerian refugees seeking shelter in neighboring Niger and Cameroon.

While Scholz is in West Africa, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is heading to East Africa, with a first stop in Tanzania. He will to meet with President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who expressed his interest in pragmatic relations with Germany. Steinmeier will visit also Zambia, becoming the first-ever German president to visit the country. He will meet with Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema and the water extraction plant on the Zambezi River, built using German funds.

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