Fair Trade with Africa – Free Trade in Africa? – Economic Perspectives for the Development of the Continent. KAAD Africa Seminar in Frankfurt/Main, 02. – 05.12.2019

The economic perspectives of the African continent are a geopolitical topic of utmost importance. Also in Germany this is a much discussed issue, however, it is dealt with mostly in the context of European migration policy (“tackling the root causes of migration/refugee flows”). For KAAD scholars, this multifaceted topic is of existential concern as it deals with the concrete livelihoods of their families, communities and societies at home. The seminar did not only deal with the domestic and foreign trade patterns of different African countries, but also with Pan-African free trade and its implications. Three outstanding speakers helped the participants to delve deeply into the complex topic: Dr. Markus Demele, General Secretary of Kolping International and social ethicist, spoke about the Africa-specific and ethical perspective on global trade and about the socio-philosophical question of what “fair” can mean and for whom. Prince Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate, member of the Ethiopian royal family and German management consultant, gave a lecture on economic and political conditions for sustainable investments on the African continent. The third speaker, Dr. John Emeka Akude (Politics and Economics, RWTH Aachen), described the opportunities and challenges of African regional economic communities and the newly proclaimed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In the evening of the second day, a public panel discussion took place in cooperation with Haus am Dom, which attracted considerable interest of the Frankfurt audience. All three speakers discussed the most central questions of trade with Africa and in Africa: How can free AND fair trade conditions be achieved so that African economies are not restricted to the role of raw material suppliers? How can African trading partners get better opportunities and market access – despite the fact, for example, that the EU distorts competition through agricultural subsidies? What can a Pan-African duty-free economic area look like?

As a Catholic centre in the heart of Frankfurt, Haus am Dom was an ideal place for civil society exchange (panel discussion). On the other hand, its location in the middle of the city allowed easy access to economic institutions and major banks which have a decisive influence on global trade. During a tour through the banking district, the participants were able to take a critical look at this trading hub.

A special experience for the 32 participants from 8 countries was a morning prayer and a Holy Mass in the historic cathedral of Frankfurt (Kaiserdom St. Bartholomäus), right next to the conference venue. The many different contributions in different languages showed once again how rich the cultural diversity of the scholars is, not only on the thematic but also on the spiritual level.