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Merkel seeks renewables boost in Africa

July 15, 2011 at 6:27 AM   |   Comments

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 15 (UPI) -- Germany is seeking to bolster trade with Africa in renewable energy, Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to the continent this week.

Germany's solar power entrepreneurs, especially, see Africa as a potentially huge market for their products and part of Merkel's visit Tuesday to Kenya included a look at the German-made solar technology array atop the new headquarters of the U.N. Environment Program in Nairobi.

She and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner toured the new office facilities, which boast more than 64,000 square feet of solar panels, energy-saving lighting and other green features.

Merkel said before the tour it was an example of how Germany and Africa can help each other economically on energy.

"Germany intends to demonstrate how it is also possible to produce energy using renewable sources," Merkel said. "I believe in this area Germany is an excellent example and we've discussed how we can cooperate more closely in the energy sector."

Africa, she said, can "learn from us what kinds of alternatives there are. I think this is especially important in sparsely populated rural areas with decentralized power supply where renewables can be a good possibility."

Accompanying Merkel in Africa were a group of German parliamentarians and business leaders who were seeking ways to boost the role of Germany's private sector in developing an African "green economy," UNEP said.

Germany's renewable energy trade with Africa amounts to $396 million per year but industry backers say that amount could be greatly boosted.

"We will experience an energy revolution in Kenya over the next three or four years," Steiner told Deutsche Welle. "From geothermal energy to the largest wind power plant on the African continent, these examples show that the transition toward a more resource efficient and less environmentally damaging economy is not just something for developed countries, but also for developing countries."

Merkel's African journey to Kenya, Angola and Nigeria came in the context of Berlin's recently adopted Concept for Africa. With the new policy, the federal government is looking to further improve German-African cooperation and at the same time "embrace its responsibility towards the continent and deepen its partnership with Africans."

The new policy shifts the emphasis in Germany's relationship with Africa away from merely doling out development aid to obtaining oil and gas through trade, especially now that Germany has moved to abandon nuclear power, the Brussels weekly New Europe reported.

Oil and gas were part of the discussions Wednesday in Luanda, where Merkel inaugurated a new German-Angolan economic conference.

Angolan officials said 95 percent of the country's exports to Germany were oil and gas, while Angola imports machinery, iron and food from Germany. Angola is the fourth-largest African market south of the Sahara for German exports.

"Germany is ready for an energy and raw materials partnership," Merkel said in Luanda, offering military equipment in the form of patrol boats in return.

The chancellor said the boats could help protect Angola's borders and bolster security in the formerly war-torn country but the offer was met with widespread condemnation by German parliamentary leaders, who criticized Luanda's human rights record, Deutsche Welle reported.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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