Boosting counter-terrorism support for countries in West Africa has become one of Angela Merkel’s main priorities on the continent. The EU is also hoping to curb migration by improving security in the Sahel region.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel started her tour of West Africa on Wednesday, a trip that will see her visit Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for key talks over the next three days.
The bulk of Merkel’s visit will focus on security and supporting counter-terrorism efforts in the restive Sahel region.
“In the last few years, this region has become the main focus of Germany’s Africa policy,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a video prior to departure.
“The number of terror attacks, the number of Islamist terror attacks, is increasing,” he added.
Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore will greet the chancellor when she arrives in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Wednesday evening.
She will then attend a regional meeting with the leaders of the so-called G5 Sahel countries — which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.
Terrorism, migration in focus
Leaders at Wednesday’s meeting are expected to discuss the G5 counter-terrorism forces and how they can work more efficiently in the Sahel region.
Although the counter-terrorism force was formed in 2014, it has not yet become fully operational, with observers saying that the 5,000 soldier force still has a lot of work to do to establish itself in the region.
Germany and the European Union have taken in an increased interest in West Africa in recent years, and are pushing to improve the security situation and improve the economic situation in the Sahel region.
Poverty and conflicts in the area have displaced millions of people and are some of the main drivers of migration to Europe.
“If we don’t solve the problems in Africa, they will come to us,” Development Minister Gerd Müller told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper on Wednesday.
He praised Merkel’s West Africa trip as “a clear signal that we won’t forget the poorest of the poor and that we stand by their side.”