The Kingdom of the Netherlands is ambitiously charting a course to intensify its bond with the African continent. Through the implementation of the newly introduced “Africa Strategy 2023-2032”, the Dutch government aims to architect a fresh, collaborative framework with African nations. So, how do the present-day dynamics of cooperation between the Netherlands and African countries shape up?
To gain an understanding of this, insights have been gathered from several Dutch ambassadors who are actively deployed in Africa. Their perspectives illuminate the intricacies of special partnerships being forged and the monumental opportunities on the horizon.
In the series of forthcoming interviews available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official blog, readers can delve into the evolving relationships between the Netherlands and African nations, the scope of current collaborations, and the promising prospects these alliances present for the future.
These narratives will provide a detailed picture of the ongoing diplomatic endeavours, underscoring potential growth areas and collaboration opportunities. An array of enlightening conversations await, promising to uncover the diverse layers of Dutch-African relations.
Looking ahead, the Africa Strategy 2023-2032 is poised to act as a roadmap, delineating how the Kingdom of the Netherlands plans to expand and enrich its engagement with Africa. This strategic blueprint sets the stage for an encouraging future, with a spotlight on the fortified Dutch-African alliances in the years to come.
Africa, a vibrant and diverse continent, is making its mark on the global stage with increasing assertiveness. With its 54 distinct nations spread over an impressive 30 million square kilometres, it matches the combined size of Europe, the United States, and China.
The geopolitical landscape is shifting rapidly, with numerous countries emerging as formidable economic and political powerhouses. Simultaneously, the challenges we face are becoming more intricate, encompassing security threats, climate change, and migration. Given this backdrop, it’s crucial for nations such as the Netherlands, and broader entities like the European Union (EU), to augment their relationships with Africa. This necessity spurred the creation of the Dutch Africa Strategy.
So, what exactly is the Dutch Africa Strategy?
This strategic blueprint outlines the approach over the upcoming decade to promote the collective interests of Africa, Europe, and the Netherlands. The plan involves a heightened focus on forging partnerships, differing from previous approaches. This change is crucial to jointly address security concerns, reduce poverty, and enhance respect for human rights.
The EU holds the position of being Africa’s primary trade partner and investor, providing an alternative to the likes of China and Russia. However, it’s not a one-way street. There are also numerous opportunities for African nations to invest in Europe. This cross-continental collaboration as outlined in the Dutch Africa Strategy could unlock vast potential for all parties involved.
You can learn more about the Dutch Africa Strategy on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official blog.
The relationship between Africa and the Netherlands is not only steeped in history but also brimming with future potential. To shed light on this, Dutch ambassadors serving in three African countries – Ethiopia, Algeria, and Mozambique – provide their viewpoints on the opportunities they see in strengthening the ties between the Netherlands and Africa.
The Dutch Ambassadors’ Perspective on Dutch-African Cooperation
Focusing on Mozambique, Dutch Ambassador Elsbeth Akkerman provides a unique perspective. She highlights the country’s growing influence, not just regionally, but on a global scale, as exemplified by its non-permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council. She points out that Mozambique possesses many underutilized opportunities, particularly due to its strategic geographical position on the Indian Ocean, analogous to the Netherlands and its access to Europe via the port of Rotterdam.
Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique has been on a developmental journey. Ackerman recognizes the similarities between Mozambique’s geographical position and that of the Netherlands, drawing parallels between the opportunities both countries hold due to their strategic locations.
“For close to 50 years, since Mozambique’s independence, the Netherlands has been a trusted partner, especially in fields where we have expertise, like water,” Akkerman explains. The country has been instrumental in promoting safe drinking water access, protecting against flooding and coastal erosion, and furthering agricultural and healthcare advancements, including efforts to decrease HIV infections. This partnership is not only beneficial for Mozambique but also holds global significance.
But the learning is mutual. Ambassador Akkerman points out that Mozambicans are exceptionally resilient and community-oriented. Their response to adversities, such as the damaging floods caused by cyclone Freddy, showcases their remarkable spirit of resilience and community strength.
The cornerstone of the partnership, according to Ambassador Akkerman, lies in continuous dialogue and non-political collaboration, which also fosters discussions around critical issues like human rights. The Dutch-African relationship, she asserts, is at the heart of the Africa Strategy.
In her words, “The success of our partnership – now and in the future – lies in the time we take for dialogue with each other.”
Ethiopia, a nation rich in ancient culture and influential in the African landscape, serves as an important collaborator for the Netherlands, according to Dutch Ambassador to Ethiopia, Henk Jan Bakker.
One of the common interests linking the two countries is floriculture. A prominent sector in Ethiopia, floriculture has engaged around 90 Dutch companies, which Bakker says are directly responsible for at least 35,000 jobs. “It’s noteworthy that 10% of Ethiopian exports go to the Netherlands, highlighting the interconnectedness of our economies,” he adds.
Apart from trade relations, the Netherlands is also the largest aid donor to Ethiopia, assisting in vital areas like healthcare, food security, and water management. Bakker stresses, “Our aid relationship is not one of dependency. Ethiopians are independent, and influence or favours are not for sale in this context.”
Reflecting on the evolution of the Dutch-Ethiopian relationship, Bakker notes the transformative political developments in Ethiopia since 2018. “With the introduction of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, there has been a shift from a state-led economy to a market economy, along with the implementation of political reforms,” he explains. The ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, coupled with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and periods of drought, have tempered the reformative momentum, but have not derailed it.
Bakker lauds the resilience and flexibility of Ethiopians, a quality he finds inspiring time and again. “Despite facing hardships, be it conflict, COVID-19, or drought, Ethiopians never lose hope, showing remarkable resilience,” he says, suggesting that this resilience offers a lesson for all, including the Netherlands.
Though Algeria may not be a widely known country in the Netherlands, Dutch Ambassador to Algeria, Janna van der Velde, emphasizes the importance of this largest African nation in terms of its demographic and geographical significance.
“Algeria, a nation of 45 million residents with a substantial young population, sits in a complex region,” says van der Velde. “Given its position between Europe and the Sahel region, and with neighbouring tensions and migration flows, Algeria plays a critical role.”
Despite its complex location, Algeria is a country that cherishes its autonomy and sovereignty, which it gained through a hard-fought independence in 1962.
While the Netherlands primarily recognizes Algeria for its oil and gas production, Ambassador van der Velde notes the country’s potential in renewable energy. “Algeria’s solar energy potential and green hydrogen production are areas ripe for exploration, considering the powerful sun and ample space available here,” she states. Collaboration between the nations extends to agriculture as well, with Dutch companies playing a role in modernizing Algerian dairy farming, desert potato cultivation, and the development of efficient horticulture practices.
The ambassador goes on to highlight the lessons that can be learned from Algeria, especially in terms of living sustainably in a hot, dry climate. From innovative irrigation systems to construction techniques that protect against extreme heat, Algeria’s strategies could offer valuable insights.
“Dutch seed producers are keen to work with Algerian counterparts to develop climate-resistant seed varieties. This amalgamation of Dutch and Algerian expertise is a prime example of the equal partnerships envisioned in the Africa Strategy.”van der Velde explains.
Van der Velde concludes with the enriching dialogues stemming from Algeria’s unique vantage point, located close to Europe, yet maintaining strong ties with the Arab world and other African countries. These perspectives can contribute to a deeper understanding of these regions, she affirms.
Are you an entrepreneur, a start-up or a SME with the goal to start up between or in Africa and Germany? Then our team will happily assist you on the legal side! We are specialized both in supporting multicultural businesses in Germany, in supporting African businesses in Germany and in supporting businesses across various African jurisdictions. While our support starts with providing help on immigration and relocation matters, it does not stop there – taxes, tech, intellectual property…You heard us! Contact us today to find out more!