NOTICE | Ambassadors of France and Germany: Sharing of sovereignty, state dinners. Odd? Not for us
Ambassador of France in South Africa, Aurelien Lechevallier and German Ambassador to South Africa, Martin Schäfer breakdown why French President Emmanuel Macron wanted to have German Minister Jens Spahn with him in South Africa during his state visit.
In the realm of international relations and politics, it may be surprising to imagine the President of South Africa going to Europe on a state visit, say to the United Kingdom, having tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and dinner with Prime Minister Johnson. in Downing Street, and accompanied, as part of his delegation, by the Minister of the Environment of Nigeria.
The two countries might have a common agenda and joint projects on wildlife conservation, but why would a president be willing to share an otherwise exclusive table and ear with officials from the country they have the privilege of visiting? ?
“Very strange,” you might say in this case, and you certainly wouldn’t be the only one.
Well, not anymore. For us, France and Germany, this idea actually makes a lot of sense.
A concrete example ? Well yes. This is exactly what we did, when French President Emmanuel Macron was invited on a state visit to South Africa two weeks ago. He invited the German Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, to be part of his official delegation.
Why is that? France and Germany have been working for months on a joint initiative to promote vaccine production – in South Africa for Africa. We assembled a collaborative project team made up of our embassies and development finance agencies, had several fruitful meetings with South African ministers and senior South African government officials, and engaged with CEOs of pharmaceutical companies. South African like Aspen Pharmacare and the Biovac Institute.
All this was part of a better understanding of the challenges of vaccine production in Africa. We believe we have come a long way. As South African leaders have repeatedly raised, we have witnessed Africa’s almost exclusive dependence on imports. We have noticed the difficulties in setting up value chains to provide African solutions to African challenges, to strengthen Africa’s capacities to produce its own vaccines for its population.
READ | France wants to support SA in the production of the Covid-19 vaccine
Most importantly, we knew and we saw the potential in South Africa.
The potential of companies, their leaders and dedicated engineers, the potential of scientists and pharmacists, committed to progress, innovation and quality. We have heard the political will of government leaders to help make it happen. And we have seen the determination of all, as African patriots, to join hands and forces to make it happen.
This was the basis of our proposals to our capitals, Paris and Berlin, and the decisions of our leaders. The time was not for politically charged debates and even less for ideological controversies. No, it was time to act: France and Germany, even the European Union, are among the most important contributors to the mechanism of Covax vaccines. We have never banned the export of vaccines produced in our countries. Indeed, more vaccines made in Europe have been exported than given to our own people.
However, all of this is not enough. We, France and Germany, want to initiate structural changes, strengthen Africa’s response capacities and substantially reduce its dependence on imports and donations.
This is why French President Emmanuel Macron wished to have German Minister Jens Spahn with him in South Africa during his state visit. We wanted to let South Africa and the world know that we are together and that we will help South Africa produce vaccines against Covid-19 and other diseases – locally for Africa.
The strength of partnership
France and Germany are committed to supporting South African research and the private sector, including the Biovac Institute and Aspen Pharmacare doing what is right and doing what is necessary: to be an integral part of the global production chains that will help us overcome the pandemic and produce vaccines made in South Africa. France and Germany have also decided to donate one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to African countries by 2022, as decided by G7 leaders on June 6.
For some, this still may not make sense and may even be strange. But for us, it shows how far we have come in our partnership and friendship, from former hereditary enemies waging war against neighbors in the heart of Europe, working together for a truly peaceful, democratic and multilateral world order.
READ | Opinion: the ambassadors of France and Germany on friendship, solidarity and the new normal
From a whole century of war, with one nation wanting revenge on the other for previous defeats and humiliations, to humiliate the other after being humiliated, in a vicious cycle of violence, hatred and resentment, the leaders French and German, Charles de Gaulle, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer vowed to make peace and to break the cycle of hatred, after the terrible and devastating Second World War, literally on the graves of millions of sons and grandsons of their generation.
Seventy-five years later, we can say with certainty that the historical vision of these old and wise men changed the course of history, the history of our two nations and the history of our home continent, l ‘Europe and the world beyond.
In this trip, the recent history of South Africa has been a rich source of inspiration for us.
And it is no coincidence that all of this is happening in South Africa.
Now you might want to know, between Germany and France, in our little example from the beginning, who would be South Africa and who would be Nigeria? Well, this riddle, we’ll have to leave it with you, and you alone. Very strange indeed!
– Aurélien Lechevallier is the French Ambassador, and Martin Schäfer is the German Ambassador