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INSIDE AFRICA: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Wraps Up Tour of Africa

Aired January 24, 2004 - 12:30:00   ET


TUMI MAKGABO, CNN ANCHOR: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wraps up a tour of Africa. We'll review the visit and see why some say it may change the dynamics of German-African relations. The chancellor himself gives us an assessment in an interview with Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

Then, dealing with the cycle of oil workers strikes in Nigeria. What's the way out?

Plus, remembering one of the continent's greatest, Eritrean poet laureate Reesom Haile.

These and other stories coming up on this edition of INSIDE AFRICA.


Hello, and thanks for joining us. I'm Tumi Makgabo.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder leaves Africa this weekend, after visiting four nations: Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. On each stop, the chancellor stressed support for NEDAP, Africa's economic recovery plan.

African leaders often emphasize the need for debt relief if NEPAD is to succeed, and Chancellor Schroeder seemed to be offering just that. He also appeared keen on improving business ties with Africa.

So, are we witnessing a change in German-African relations?

Charlayne Hunter-Gault takes a look.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN JOHANNESBURG BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): An image not seen in 99 years -- a German head of government in Ethiopia for the first time since that country and Germany established diplomatic ties. The trip came as Africa's leaders embark on one of the most ambitious political and economic reform programs since the end of colonialism: The New Partnership for African Development -- NEPAD.

At the headquarters of the African Union, the new organization of African states -- charged with making the ambitious NEPAD plan work -- Gerhard Schroeder spoke encouraging words.

The chancellor told the assembled dignitaries Africa's way to modernization can only come from Africa. But Germany is helping, canceling Ethiopia's debt of some 16 million euros, or 20 million U.S. dollars.

Kenya, the chancellor's next port-of-call, not least because of its peaceful change of power after 24 years of one-man rule, but also because of its close proximity to Somalia, seen as a haven for terrorists -- like those who recently attacked an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombassa, where 15 people were killed.

GERHARD SCHROEDER, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We are in agreement that we should and want to make our knowledge and our possibilities available to you, to overcome this problem, which affects all of us and is not limited to one region of the world.

HUNTER-GAULT: Kenya got a promise that German aid would be doubled to 25 million euros, or more than 31 million U.S. dollars.

In South Africa, the chancellor was warmly welcomed by his economic soul mate, Thabo Mbeki, who also embraces socially-responsible capitalism.

THABO MBEKI, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: A strong economic partnership and one that will grow in all respects.

HUNTER-GAULT: Germany is South Africa's largest import partner and South Africa's fourth largest export partner. Last year, BMW built more than 50,000 cars here -- 80 percent for export, mostly to the United States. In all, the 450 German companies here generate some 70,000 jobs. So, the chancellor and the business delegation from Germany had plenty to talk about with their local colleagues.

(on camera): Clearly informed by Germany companies doing business here, the chancellor cautioned the South African government to be flexible in its plans to ensure blacks get their fair share, so as not to discourage foreign investments.

(voice-over): From South Africa, it was off to Ghana, chosen also for its good governance. There, the chancellor expects to help with infrastructure, health and also promote private investment.

Was it just a public relations exercise? The traveling press from Germany didn't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a real commitment to Africa, because Germany is one of the biggest donors for Africa. It's a country where we don't have any colonial past, so Germany can act more freely and more independent than, let's say, France or Britain.

HUNTER-GAULT: And what was the verdict from the chancellor, after his first visit to the continent?

SCHROEDER (through translator): So, I take home with me the impression that Africa is setting out on a new path. Of course, there are areas in which problems still persist -- the Great Lake region, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Ivory Coast. But, again, the countries that I've been visiting are countries that represent that spirit of making a fresh start.

HUNTER-GAULT: And so far, its leaders and businessmen say the chancellor has not just talked the talk, but walked the walk.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CNN, Pretoria, South Africa.


MAKGABO: Charlayne caught up with Chancellor Schroeder at a German automobile plant in South Africa and asked him for his assessment of the visit.


SCHROEDER (through translator): Of course, I had certain expectations in coming here, and those expectations have been met. We've carefully selected the countries I was to visit during this trip of mine. We wanted to extend support to those countries who, apart from South Africa -- with South Africa, really, it's not a problem, because for 10 years now they've been working hard to bring freedom and democracy together -- but we also wanted to support other countries to set out on a good path, a self- confident path leading in the right direction.

HUNTER-GAULT: And in Ethiopia, where you first started, what do you see Germany being able to there?

SCHROEDER (through translator): Yes, Ethiopia numbers amongst those countries who come to enjoy the benefits of the HIPIC (ph) initiative. This is an initiative the came about in Cologne at the D.A. (ph) summit meeting and aimed at debt forgiveness, debt consolidation for the poorest countries of the poor. Ethiopia has now qualified, is now fulfilling and meeting the criteria, and it has done a great effort of its own to do so. Germany is, therefore, in a position to cancel a debt of 16 million euros.


SCHROEDER (through translator): In Kenya, we intend to increase our development cooperation with the country. We've seen here a peaceful change of power from the then President, Mr. Moi, to the present president, Mr. Kibaki. And we believe that Kenya is on a good way. It is fighting corruption. It's successful in doing so. It is working to bring about an independent justice, and it is successful in doing so, and this is why we intend to double our development cooperation.

HUNTER-GAULT: And South Africa, your reaction?

SCHROEDER (through translator): South Africa is a good and old friend and partner, economically speaking and politically speaking. We don't have any political differences. It is a dynamic country, and trade between both countries is developing dynamically. This is equally true for direct investment.

At the same time it is with great respect that we acknowledge what South Africa has achieved over the last 10 years -- developing the country into a democratic and constitutional state. They have our utmost respect for that.

HUNTER-GAULT: And your final stop is Ghana. What are your expectations there? What do you think you can do?

SCHROEDER (through translator): I think we can especially assist in helping build up the infrastructure and the health sector of the country, not only through development corporate, but also to getting private investments. In Ghana, again, we see a country that has set out on a good path, that is developing in the right direction as far as good governance is concerned. And therefore, I believe it is a country that deserves greater attention than it has been given so far.

HUNTER-GAULT: You've seen many things in Africa. Is there any one thing that touched your soul?

SCHROEDER (through translator): So, I take home with me the impression that Africa is setting out on a new path. Of course, there are areas in which problems still persist -- the Great Lake region, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Ivory Coast. But, again, the countries that I've been visiting are countries that represent that spirit of making a fresh start.

The second point that I would like to underline. We visited a township earlier today, and there, again, I was struck by the readiness and the willingness of the people to make headway, to advance, to progress with the support of the government or the ANC (ph).

These people did not appear depressed, unwilling to act to do something with their own hands. Not at all. They are willing to bring about a change out of their own strengths and faults, and that struck me. And I was very much amazed by it and impressed by it.

I think it would be a big mistake of us Europeans not to acknowledge the fact that the African continent is a continent that has enormous opportunities to offer, that has vast resources of its own -- natural resources and also human resources.

HUNTER-GAULT: Are you glad you came?

SCHROEDER: Yes, I'm glad that I came.


MAKGABO: Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder speaking with Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

Still ahead, a tribute to a literary hero, and delving into the cycle of strikes in Nigeria. We'll take a look at those stories in a moment.


MAKGABO: Welcome back.

The German chancellor says the countries he visited this week were selected because of their progress in economic, as well as political reform.

Brenda Bernard is at our business desk with a look at economic projections for some of these countries -- Brenda.


Three of the countries visited by Chancellor Schroeder are showing strong potential economic growth this year. Ghana's stock market, for example, was very strong last year, achieving returns of 144 percent -- over 80 percent of that in U.S. dollars. Over the last three years, the government succeeded in reducing inflation and keeping growth at an average 4 percent.

Razia Khan of the London-based Standard Charter Bank attributes this success to the government's fiscal policies.


RAZIA KHAN, STANDARD CHARTER BANK: Ghana has performed particularly well on the external side recently. Of course, with dollar weakness, gold prices have been very well-supported, and Ghana stands to benefit from that.

Ghana has also benefited from higher cocoa prices due to concerns about what's been happening in the cocoa market. But overall, the one thing that has underlined the better economic performance has been the policy changes put in place, really tight fiscal policy.


BERNARD: The story is not much different in Kenya, another country that's apparently benefiting from good fiscal policies introduced by the new government of President Moi Kibaki. It's attracting international donors, and investors are pouring in. The stock market had a phenomenal year with market capitalization rising to over 152 percent.


KHAN: One of the things Kenya's new government has been able to do very successfully has been to bring down interest rates. Currently, yields on three-month treasury bills are only 1.6 percent. This is the lowest level of interest rates Kenya has experienced for some time.

As a result, investors -- not just foreign investors, but domestic investors as well -- have been flocking into the stock market.


BERNARD: In South Africa, the continent's largest economy, the strength of the currency, the rand, boosted the stock exchange, bringing in price returns of 43 percent in U.S. dollars. And analysts say that has put the country firmly back on the agenda of foreign investors.


KHAN: Overall, there's a strong stimulus coming through to the economy, and in an election year, and even before that, the government had decided that they had established a good reputation for sound policy. And while they could afford to spend a bit more, they've already unveiled big infrastructure spending plans. They will be a fiscal boost to the economy.

In addition to that, largely because of the currency's strength last year, the Central Bank has been able to cut interest rates 5.5 percent last year, and the impact of that still has to be felt in the real economy. This is when it could start to be felt, and that promises better growth for South Africa.


BERNARD: Both South Africa and Ghana are to hold elections this year. While increased spending may work in South Africa, analysts say if the Ghanaian government (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to appease the electorate, it could jeopardize the economic gains.

That's a look at your money. I'm Brenda Bernard.

Tumi -- back to you.

MAKGABO: Thanks, Brenda.

And now, some of the other stories making news around the continent.


MAKGABO (voice-over): Sudan's government and the main rebel group, the SPLA, have agreed on the status of two of three disputed regions. According to the chief negotiator, the deal provides for autonomy in the Nuba Mountain and Southern Blue Nile regions during a six-year interim period. Negotiations and the future of another crucial region, Abyei, continue.

Algeria is still coping with a loss of more than two dozen people in a huge explosion. The blast, which also injured more than 70 workers at a petro-chemical complex, is being blamed on a faulty boiler. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited the disaster site this week, as workers complained that their repeated warnings of possible disaster had been ignored. Algeria has one of the world's largest natural gas reserves.

And the former Chelsium (ph) AC Milan football star, George Weah, arrived in Liberia this week to campaign for the disarmament of child soldiers. The U.N. goodwill ambassador, himself a Liberian, was warmly received by a crowd of singing and dancing youth. Liberia has more than 40,000 fighters, and disarmament is seen as key to creating long-lasting peace in the country.


George Weah leaves Liberia this weekend.

And on to the story of a man we first introduced you to two years ago, poet laureate Reesom Haile. At the heart of his career, his popularity grew, along with his newly independent nation, Eritrea. Reesom died last June.

Here is Sally Graham with a tribute to a man many call one of Eritrea's greatest sons.



SALLY GRAHAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Poet laureate Reesom Haile believed Tigrinya, one of the major languages of Eritrea, could, as he often said, resurrect a nation.

Logging on to the Internet in 1997, Reesom Haile joined his voice with other Eritreans in the global Diaspora (ph) community.

HAILE: His voice speaks online, it can set you free. It lights my voice on a screen like the sun, and that sets me free to think in poetry. I read from a young poet, an Eritrean, a poem there, which asked basically, you know, who are you? And in response to that, I composed a poem. And from then on -- I haven't stopped for four or five years. I have not stopped. I write almost a poem a day.

GRAHAM: Returning to a newly-independent Eritrea fueled Reesom's passion for his language and his people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reesom was gathered -- I gathered a crowd, so that when he would read his poetry, the people would answer back. It became a kind of refrain.

HAILE: I went back home and I found my people again.

GRAHAM: Dr. Reesom Haile was awarded the Raymont (ph) Prize, Eritrea's (ph) highest award for literary achievement, and wrote four books, including two with African literature scholar and translator, Charles Cantaloopo (ph).

Haile's (ph) work has been translated into 10 different languages. Fans are still visiting his guest book on a popular Eritrean Web site and registering their hope for Eritrea's future.

In Brussels, dipping crusty bread into melted butter, as piles of mussel shells grew higher and higher, I came to see Reesom Haile -- poet, artist -- as the Engera (ph) -- the traditional bread of Eritrea that nurtures and sustains Tigrinya speakers and, through translation, admirers worldwide.

HAILE (through translator): Like father, like mother, like son. Except for God, Reesom fears (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A jury of his peers, his friends at school, say he's added to the culture and deducted only from his pay.

GRAHAM: In one of Reesom's last poems he wrote, "If I lived as long as Methuselah, God would call me home before I could end this song."

Sally Graham for INSIDE AFRICA.



MAKGABO: Hello again.

This week, yet another labor strike was avoided in Nigeria. This time, workers were angry over a proposed fuel tax. This week's work stoppage was the fourth during the last 12 months, raising concerns in some quarters.

Jeff Koinange is in Abuja.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN LAGOS BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): To strike or not to strike. That seems to be the question these Nigerians are asking these days, as Africa's most populous nation was once again brought to a virtual standstill by the second strike in as many months.

The latest call to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by the country's powerful trade unions was finally called off halfway through its first day. But it has left many here with a bitter after-taste and questioning the rationale behind what is increasingly being seen as a flawed strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strikes should be the last resort of issues through disagreement, but we're found in a situation where strike is almost the first option. It's really unfortunate.

KOINANGE: Strikes in Nigeria are nothing new. Last year alone, unions stayed off the job four times to protest rising fuel prices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, ourself, we are really, really getting tired of these strikes. That is why this time I said this will be the last strike in the sense that I thought we should look for other ways to resolve this matter in a manner that is sustainable, so that we can break away from this vicious cycle.

KOINANGE: But Africa's largest oil producer and the world's fifth largest exporter of crude oil has seen fuel prices at the pump double in the last 12 months alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government has not pretended that it tends to address the social consequences of this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I mean, there is no form of any pushing optional ground. And so, people are just finding themselves getting poorer and poorer and poorer, and more and more people are resigning their fate.

KOINANGE: We wanted to delve deeper in the psyche of strikes in Nigeria. In order to do this, we sought the help of economist and head of the Lagos Business School, Pat Utomi.

PAT UTOMI, LAGOS BUSINESS SCHOOL: The citizenry are exasperated, and there is an apparent vacuum. And labor is trying to move in and close that vacuum, but has somehow not managed to understand the real power of a strike and the real measure for how to or how not to with such power.

KOINANGE: It's hard to believe that this potential economic powerhouse could be reduced to what some critics instead call a potential basket case.

UTOMO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is described as a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) economy, two steps forward, four steps backwards. And, you know, this has become a pattern that needs to change.

KOINANGE: Change, like anything here, doesn't happen overnight. And Nigeria is, after all, a relatively young democracy, having shaken off decades of military misrule barely five years ago.

But if Nigeria is ever to regain its past glory, some here agree a drastic change is required.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we are going to ever realize our potentials, it cannot be business as usual. So, certainly, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) illusion that this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KOINANGE: Labor leaders say a rethinking of policy will also be required to help reinvigorate a rising apathy, gripping the nation of 130 million people.

UTOMI: I understand the frustrations the people feel. I understand the labor opinion that, well, it has now been ordained in the absence of opposition to help these frustrated Nigerian people articulate their position. But I don't think that a daily threat of a strike (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is the best way to get things done.

KOINANGE (on camera): One way to help get things done is to diversify the economy and help make the nation less dependent on oil, which accounts for over 90 percent of GDP. That way, economists here say, more jobs will be created, more revenue generated, and more incomes attained. But critics here argue that's a pipe dream, and Africa's potentially biggest economy still has some way to go and more strikes to endure before it reaches a critical mass.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Abuja.


MAKGABO: And finally, to Tunisia, where the 24th African Cup of Nations begins this weekend. The Tunisians hope to stop Cameroon from being only the third team to win the Cup of Nations three times in a row, but it seems you, our viewers, don't think that's possible. When we asked you who you think will win the tournament, 37 percent said Nigeria, 29 percent said Senegal, and only 3 percent said Tunisia.

We'll have highlights from the games for the tournament for the duration of the tournament.

And that's our look INSIDE AFRICA for this week. I'm Tumi Makgabo.



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