"Africa's security challenges are the concerns of the rest of the world"

The joint fight against terror and extremism, crisis prevention and management in Northern and Eastern Africa, as well as the security risks posed by epidemics and climate change were among the central topics of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) Core Group Meeting in Addis Ababa.

From left: Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, MSC Chairman Ischinger, and Tana Forum Chairman Obasanjo in Addis Ababa (Photo: MSC / Kuhlmann).

Under the chairmanship of Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, around 60 senior leaders from Africa, Europe and the US gathered in the Ethiopian capital, which is also the seat of the African Union (AU), to exchange ideas in an informal setting. The MSC Core Group Meeting – the first one on African soil – took place on the occasion of the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa and was actively supported by the governments of Germany and Ethiopia as well as the African Union Commission. To view a photo gallery with impressions from the conference events, click here.

"We need more cooperation with Africa"

Debates also focused on the importance of Africa for international security, the problem of political violence surrounding elections, the impact of large trends like demography on Africa's security landscape, as well as the state of Africa’s security architecture.

There are a lot of international meetings in this city, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said during a conference dinner at the National Palace. "But no meeting is more timely and more important than this one."

During his opening address, MSC Chairman Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger stressed: "It really is high time for a renewed special focus on Africa. Africa's young and fast-growing population can offer enormous opportunities for its societies. If states can build infrastructures and institutions that match this growth, the 21st century will belong to Africa. If, on the other hand, states fail to do so, the discontent and frustration of Africa's youth will fuel many of the security challenges we are already witnessing today – with horrific consequences on the continent, but also far beyond it." Markus Ederer, State Secretary of the German Federal Foreign Office, added: "Without addressing peace and security, we shall not see sustainable improvements in the livelihood of the people."

In order to deal with Africa's pressing security issues, Ambassador Ischinger called for more European-African cooperation. He agreed with former Nigerian President and Chairman of the Tana Forum Olusegun Obasanjo, who stressed: "Africa's security challenges are more and more becoming the concerns and challenges of the rest of the world – and vice versa."


Africa is ready to respond

The Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that "despite the many challenges we are still facing, today's Africa is different from the 1980s and 1990s. It has made significant progress and showed remarkable resilience," he added, particularly in crisis management: "Africa has become far more ready to shoulder its responsibility in conflict resolution." Conflict prevention and management would not be possible without Africa taking the lead. Participants emphasized the high burden African states are carrying in international peacekeeping efforts – not least in the AMISOM mission in Somalia. But, one participating leader argued, while many countries provide assets to try and help with stabilization in Somalia, coordination is often lacking and must urgently be improved. "African nations have been ready to deploy their troops at short notice in highly dangerous environments," the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui argued. "We are ready to deploy a peace operation where there is no peace to keep, or where the mission requires combat operations against terrorists."

Participants also debated the chances of cross-Red Sea cooperation to create regional conditions conducive to stabilization. "The jugular vein of the world economy, from the Horn of Africa through the Red Sea, now has a knife to it," one participating leader warned: "The area has never been less secure." But discussants disagreed whether collaboration across the Red Sea was feasible at all under current conditions.

After a public opening session, the rest of the conference was held under Chatham House Rule and featured extraordinarily frank discussions on key security issues, including on the negative impact of corruption and the quality of governments. "Sometimes, security becomes an excuse for not improving governance," one participant argued. "Military budgets are usually the hearts of corruption," another pointed out. "Good governance is not some mysterious witchcraft."

A debate on the continent's politics of domestic change, "Electing Peace," was also marked by very pointed contributions on whether the current trends were positive. One leader remarked that it was always the violent elections that made the news while the numerous encouraging, peaceful elections never appeared on the front page. On the other hand, a participant argued, much too often elections in Africa still meant "One person, one vote – once," because winners then stayed in power for decades. Elections, it was stressed, also play an important total beyond the electoral process itself: They "can be cornerstones of the state formation process" by prompting debates on the census, borders, legal systems and other critical matters.

Another spirited discussion centered on the spread of and fight against jihadism. Several participants stressed that while jihadism may be a global phenomenon, the roots of its support are most often local – and sustainable solutions would have to be local too. Thus, conflating different groups into one was unhelpful or even dangerous. "Only legitimate governments will succeed in defeating terrorism," former German President Horst Köhler stressed in his dinner keynote address.

Many leaders emphasized how critical the current time was for Africa, considering that these next few years would determine whether the continent's states would be able to manage the unprecedented population boom or not. But participants disagreed about how positive the outlook was. Some stressed that the economic performances of states were better than perceived, whereas others noted that even if that were the case, there were still tens of millions of jobs missing. Moreover, many states lacked the resources to build education and health systems that would keep up with the growth of the population. On health, in particular, one participant argued, "we have to go from firefighting to building sustainable solutions."

The final session focused on the state and future of Africa's security architecture, including on the role of the AU and ongoing peacekeeping or peacebuilding efforts. Several discussants stressed that African states and institutions had made important strides. But, others argued, states still tended to blame conflicts on international bodies instead of assuming responsibility themselves. Yes, African solutions were needed, one participating leader emphasized, but it was even more important "to get back to African values: the sanctity of life, respect for women. Leaders too often neglect that."

Whereas the sessions featured open, frank, and controversial debates, there was agreement about two critical observations: it would be foolish for the world to ignore or underestimate the importance of Africa, and there is a need for much closer dialogue and cooperation. And: "The world has a lot to learn from Africa," Horst Köhler observed, not least the management and celebration of diversity.

Since continuing this discussion is essential, the MSC will continue to look for opportunities to strengthen the security dialogue with African leaders. "We'll be back!" MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger concluded.

Senior decision makers met in Addis Ababa

Among the Core Group Meeting's high-level participants were the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui, the former Nigerian President and current Chairman of the Tana Forum Olusegun Obasanjo, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The host country Ethiopia will be represented by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. They were joined by the Foreign Ministers of Ghana and Rwanda, Hanna Serwaah Tetteh and Louise Mushikiwabo, as well as the Minister in Charge of Mission at the Royal Cabinet of Morocco Youssef Amrani and the Defense Minister of Somalia, Abdulkadir Ali Dini. Participants from Germany included the former Federal President Horst Köhler and the Representative of the Federal Chancellor for Africa Günter Nooke, as well as Markus Ederer, State Secretary in the Federal Foreign Office, and Norbert Röttgen, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the German Bundestag. The Director General of the International Organization for Migration William Lacy Swing, the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, the UN Special Representative for Somalia Michael Keating, as well as the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa Carlos Lopes represented key international institutions.


About the MSC Core Group Meetings
Since 2009, the MSC has linked up with local partners to host so-called Core Group Meetings in capitals around the world. Limited to a small group of no more than 60 senior participants, the MSC Core Group Meetings provide an exclusive setting for high-level decision-makers from around the globe to discuss current security challenges in their host region's context. Meetings have already taken place in Washington, D.C. (2009 & 2013), Moscow (2010), Beijing (2011), Doha (2013), New Delhi (2014), Vienna (2015), and Tehran (2015). Further Core Group Meetings are planned for Beijing (November 2016) and Washington, D.C (2017).


POC: MSC Spokesperson Oliver Rolofs, T: +49-89-37979 4921; or M: +251 (0) 967317758, E-Mail: press@remove-this.securityconference.de

15 April 2016, by MSC