AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

Germany’s African “Big Five”
Corinna Jentzsch | June 13th, 2013

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On the occasion of the country’s first “development day” last week, the German ministry for economic cooperation and development launched a new campaign to educate Germans about what development policy is—or more accurately what the “new German development policy” looks like. What the campaign actually teaches us is that there is nothing new about German development policy and that it looks like the confirmation of clichés, recycling of old ideas and promotion of a neocolonial mindset. Superimposed on the map of the African continent, the “Big Five”—a lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino—represent the five goals of the ministry’s work: to reduce poverty, secure natural resources, and promote biodiversity, education, and human rights. The relation between the big five and the five goals? No idea. In order to “justify” the use of wild life on the poster, the ministry cooperated with the WWF.

German civil society organizations have already reacted to the campaign and criticized the poster for linking German development policy to colonial safaris—a hunt for exploitable objects—, which suggests a one-sided intervention on the African continent, without regard for its people, to the benefit of the West. The NGO Berlin Postkolonial demanded the minister of economic cooperation and development to resign, as he disqualified himself for the office as minister with the launch of this campaign. “What is new about it,” asks Mnyaka Sururu Mboro of Berlin Postkolonial in a press release by AfricAvenir, “that the Germans in Africa ‘fight poverty’ and at the same time ‘secure natural resources’ and want to promote their growth? That they assume that with hunting and photo safaris they will ‘preserve biodiversity’? What is new about it that Germany wants to export the country’s own ideas of ‘democracy’ and models of ‘education’? What’s new about it that Europe speaks of the ‘protection of human rights,’ which it permanently denies to African refugees?” Both NGOs, Berlin Postkolonial and AfricAvenir, seek to change common depictions of Africa in Germany and promote a critical engagement with Germany’s colonial past.

You want to know what’s actually new about it all? The minister, Dirk Niebel’s, picture on the lower left hand side of the poster. This is uncommon in federal agency’s PR campaigns, which led to accusations that Niebel would use the 3600 posters all over Germany for his personal election campaign for the upcoming national elections in September. His party, the Free Democrats, have lost much support in recent months due to the lack of leadership and solid policies. Maybe Niebel hoped to get some election boost from the big five. The headline of the German daily newspaper Die Welt read: “Niebel embarks on the election campaign with Africa’s big game.”

To celebrate Africans on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the African Union and not the Germans, Mansour Ciss Kanakassy of Laboratoire Déberlinisation published an alternative map of the African continent, on which the “big five” are African leaders that fought for freedom and contributed to African unity: Amilcar Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Cheikh Anta Diop, Kwame Nkrumah, and Haile Selassie.

The battle over the 27th of May in Angola
The new and improved Africa is a Country is here
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Corinna Jentzsch

Corinna Jentzsch is a doctoral candidate in political science at Yale University.


3 thoughts on “Germany’s African “Big Five”

  1. Just to add: this campaign comes from a minister whose declared goal on taking up the post it was to reduce the development budget to as little as possible – ultimately zero and who restructured the German development agencies in coordination with the Foreign Office, so that development aid was subordinated to German interests abroad, while also making it more technocratic. With such a campaign (in a country which not so long ago debated about whether it is ok to set up an “African village” in a zoo, nevermind the infamous tradition of Völkerschauen), he simply adds insult to injury.

  2. Totally agree that the German and EU aid budgets should adjust toward 0!

  3. I would have liked to sit in the meeting where the minister’s advisers and the advertising people were discussing the first mock-ups of the campaign….

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