Cape Town - German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for greater tolerance of diversity, in Europe and Africa, and said he hoped South Africa and Germany could cooperate to right historical wrongs and confront the challenges of migration and resurgent nationalism.
Speaking at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg on Monday, Steinmeier said his three-day visit to South Africa was aimed in part in helping Europeans understand that Africa is not a single entity but a continent of nations.
"My visit is intended in part to give people in Germany a more nuanced view of Africa, a continent of 54 states, with a fascinating history and unimaginably diverse culture. By the same token, there is no one Europe either. Europe, too, is diverse. The European Union alone comprises 28 states. Europe as a continent, like Africa, has more than 50 countries, countries with very different experiences and traditions. But also with very different problems."
Steinmeier said the conversation in Germany about cohesion had become more urgent since the country opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees and he believed Germany could learn from South Africa's experience of harbouring foreigners in need.
"South Africa’s reality reminds us in Germany that Europe is not the only place to which people migrate or come when they are forced to flee their homes. Your country has itself taken in a great many people, from your neighbouring countries, from all across Africa. This achievement deserves respect, appreciation and support. Many people in Africa flee south to escape war and violence, but many also come here because they dream of a better life. In other words, you in South Africa are facing similar challenges to us in Germany."
He referred to the rise of xenophobia in Germany, and said it had seen walls rise between different groups in society.
"We have been experiencing hatred and brutalisation – for a long time now, no longer just within the anonymity of the internet, but out on the streets. Racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia have not been overcome in Germany either; overcoming them remains a constant obligation on all in our society.
"And the question of cohesion has become even louder since we took in hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of them from very different cultures. I hope to be able to discuss this, too. Because, as you will have realised from my remarks here, we in Germany certainly do not have all the answers... And I believe we have a good deal to say to each other and a lot to learn from each other."
Steinmeier called for South Africa and Germany to work towards a more just form of globalisation when both nations take up temporary seats on the United Nations Security Council
"Without multilateral cooperation we will not be able to master the major global challenges. And only if we work together can we shape globalisation more fairly. In the next few years we will have the opportunity to approach this in a very concrete way.
"I hope that we will make use of this opportunity to work together on peacekeeping, climate and security, and health and security. Let us, South Africans and Germans, show that the world does not become more peaceful with 'everyone against everyone else', but only through increased cooperation."
Steinmeier has lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa's efforts to curb corruption and signalled a German wish to increase investment in South Africa.
He is being accompanied by a strong business delegation, which includes executives from Siemens and state-owned development bank KfW.
Steinmeier is meeting with Ramaphosa in Cape Town on Tuesday.
African News Agency (ANA)