How to Upgrade Germany's Policy Towards African Countries on Migration
Relations with African countries have become more important for Germany, and its political engagement with them has noticeably increased. The issue of migration is not the only reason for this, but it has been one of the most important political drivers in recent years. Most likely, the African continent will remain a focal point for migration-related policy issues for Europe. Geographic proximity, demographic changes, geopolitical upheavals, and the forces of climate change, conflict and war, as well as an increasing desire of many to migrate to Europe, mean that Germany has a key interest in deepening partnerships and cooperation with African countries in order to better manage migration between the two continents.
"Building a deeper partnership with African countries may seem daunting. But, done properly, this could be the beating heart of a real migration diplomacy and a serious German foreign policy on migration."
The increased political attention that relations to the continent is receiving in Germany is laudable and a step in the right direction. But overall, despite an abundance of new initiatives and significant financial investments, Germany’s approach on migration-specific goals is still focused more on shorter-term technical cooperation, at times timid in using the political leverage it may have, and less part of a greater diplomatic engagement strategy. Building a deeper partnership with African countries may seem daunting. But, done properly, this could be the beating heart of a real migration diplomacy and a serious German foreign policy on migration.
The basis of an upgraded German policy must be durable partnerships between German and African actors and a more coherent foreign policy on migration. The way partnerships with African countries are built and which principles they apply will determine whether Germany can come closer to meeting this goal. Partnerships will also only be possible with African states that have a genuine interest in building one. But, if successful, they can serve as blueprints for Germany to engage with other countries and regions. The following measures would help Germany achieve this:
ESTABLISH REGULAR TRUST-BUILDING VENUES BEYOND OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT MEETINGS
A partnership approach would involve a deliberative process of finding common interests, building trust, and managing expectations, and it would be part of improving the awareness and legitimacy in Africa of German interests as well. This should include policymakers willing to listen to African partners, rather than simply stating demands in a quid pro quo negotiation. To achieve this, government consultations should be flanked by more informal or Track Two processes that involve other actors and stakeholders from diasporas, civil society, the private sector, or academia. These could be supported through Germany’s government or non-state actors, or through a mixture of public and private finance.
BUILD COUNTRY AND REGIONAL EXPERTISE IN GERMAN INSTITUTIONS
In Germany, more expertise on African countries — in ministries , in the policy planning units, or in think tanks — will be crucial to bolster more robust and strategic po licymaking, including on migration matters. This could in turn help Germany develop a long-term strategy to maneuver more systematically and strategically in the new geopolitical environment in Africa.
INCORPORATE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION AS AN INTEGRAL COMPONENT OF PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
It will be important to increase strategic communication capacity and to develop more strategic messaging of what Germany’s aims overall are on migration with regard to specific African countries or regions. This includes defining more clearly what aims it has with partnership countries. It also includes thinking through how the government can communicate this domestically. A different domestic narrative (from the current one still dominated by Africa as a poverty- and conflict-stricken continent) would provide more room for maneuver externally—say, through engaging small a nd medium German enterprises, or by laying the groundwork to provide more mobility options for African citizens to come to Germany for study or for work.
UPGRADE GERMANY’S OF INFORMATION CENTERS FOR JOBS, MIGRATION, AND INTEGRATION INTO PARTIAL OUTPOSTS OF A FOREIGN POLICY ON MIGRATION
The role of Germany’s new information centers should be rethought and reconfigured to make at least parts of them outposts of a foreign policy on migration. With additional sections they could become places where different ministries (that is, the Foreign Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) incorporate certain services, where ties to private actors (for example, German firms) are established, or where new programs (say, on reintegration efforts) in conjunction with local actors or international institutions are tested and coordinated.
In addition, specific migration-related policy approaches should focus on the following:
USING LEGAL MIGRATION CHANNELS AND MOBILITY OPTIONS MORE, WITH A CLEAR LOGIC IN MIND
The creation of more legal migration pathways is always at the top on the policy agenda of African countries of origin as they benefit from increased remittances as well as the skills and know-how of diaspora members. The call for more legal pathways, however, is often vague and ill defined. Germany could include legal channels into its migration policy mix far more strategically and with a clearer view of which goals they can serve. Different reasons for offering legal pathways (for instance, in negotiations, or to reduce irregular migration more structurally, or to help recruit and attract labor) should be used more purposefully and specifically.
FOSTERING MOBILITY IN SKILLS TRAINING AND EDUCATION
Germany’s government could promote mobility options for short-term stays or longer apprenticeships such as the global skills partnerships mentioned in Objective 18 of the Global Compact on Migration. The new labor-migration law that will come into effect in 2020 could be used as a starting point to better bundle and promote mobility opportunities, such as the new job-search visa for skilled employment or apprenticeship/training positions for citizens of select countries. Opportunities for exchange and visas should be provided especially in higher education and employment training.
FINDING NEW SOLUTIONS TO THE CHANGING DISPLACEMENT AND PROTECTION LANDSCAPE
There are significant structural challenges in the medium-to-long term that Germany will have to adjust to. This will require being creative and innovative with local partners and international organizations to find alternatives to refugee camps. It will also require addressing internally displaced persons that may often end up in rapidly urbanized areas alongside refugees and migrants from other countries, potentially increasing tensions among different groups. Refugee protection i n this sense will move beyond short-term humanitarian-aid approaches. Creating smart solutions to unmanaged urbanization will be part of this. Germany could also test options for setting up a system or legal pathway for displaced people that have certain skills needed in the country. These developments need to be part of a wider migration outlook toward Africa.
 Michael Clemens, “Global Skill Partnerships: A Proposal for Technical Training in a Mobile World (Brief)”, Center for Global
Development, 11. October, 2017.