Germany’s Merkel bolsters support for west African states

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Burkina Faso and four other West African countries millions of euros in new German aid on Wednesday to help fight terrorism in the region and support economic development.

At the start of a three-day visit to the region, Merkel promised Burkina Faso more than 20 million euros ($22 million) and said Germany would send a further 60 million to the G5 Sahel group, to which Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania also belong.

Western governments, including former colonial power France and the United States, are alarmed by the rise of jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in West Africa’s lawless Sahel region.

Merkel, who also plans to offer German aid of 35 million euros to Niger, is aiming to stimulate private investment in the region with the money.

“Africa needs a self-supporting economy,” she told reporters in Burkina Faso, one of the poorer African countries with gross domestic product (GDP) of less than $1,000 per person.

Her aim is to help ease the poverty which, along with political instability and violence, has encouraged large numbers to head for Europe. But with Africa’s population growing at almost 3 percent a year, the task is enormous.