Speaking at an EU-Africa summit in Abidjan, Merkel, is seeking to show Germany can take foreign policy action despite still being under a caretaker government two months after an election.
The influx of more than a million migrants since mid-2015, many of them fleeing the Middle East and Africa, was largely to blame for the rise of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) in a Sept. 24 election.
By taking votes from Merkel’s conservative bloc and others, they surged into parliament for the first time, leaving Merkel facing complicated coalition arithmetic.
She is grappling to form a new government with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) after discussions on forming a three-way tie-up with the liberals and Greens failed.
On the issue of illegal immigration, Merkel said: “This plays a role all over the African continent now because there are reports that young African men are being sold like slaves in Libya.”
Libya is now the main departure point for mostly African migrants trying to cross to Europe. Smugglers usually pack them into flimsy inflatable boats that often break down or sink.
Merkel, who in 2015 decided to open Germany’s borders to migrants, said legal options needed to be created for Africans to be able to get training or study in an EU country.
The summit is due to focus on education, investment in youth and economic development to prevent refugees and economic migrants from attempting the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.
OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - France’s President Emmanuel Macron told African youths on Tuesday that he belonged to a new generation of French leaders who would build partnerships with the continent rather than tell it what to do.
But a youth protest against him, stones pelting one of his delegation’s vehicles and a botched grenade attack on French troops hours before his arrival in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou showed the hostility that still lingers after decades of an often tense France-Africa relationship.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting with Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore at the Presidential Palace in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
Macron was also subjected to rowdy student questions at the university after his speech in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, and was sometimes left fruitlessly hushing as he struggled to get his answers heard above the crowd.
In his speech, peppered with references to African nationalists such as Nelson Mandela and Burkina’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, Macron promised a break with a past in which France often seemed to call the shots to former colonies.
“I am from a generation that doesn’t come to tell Africans what to do,” Macron said during a speech to university students in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, prompting an applause.
“I am from a generation for whom Nelson Mandela’s victory is one of the best political memories.”
The 39-year-old is on a three-day visit to Burkina Faso, Ghana and Ivory Coast aimed at boosting cooperation in education, the digital economy and migration.
“I will be alongside those who believe that Africa is neither a lost continent or one that needs to be saved,” he said.
The grenade attack missed the French soldiers but wounded three civilians hours before Macron arrived. No group claimed responsibility.
Stones were thrown at a delegation convoy, however Macron was far away from it at a meeting with his Burkina counterpart, Roch Marc Kabore in the presidential palace.
Dozens of local youths clashed with security forces in the centre of the capital throwing stones. Police responded with teargas. Protesters burnt T-shirts with images of Macron and carried slogans including “Down with new-colonialism” and “French military out of Burkina”.
BREAK WITH PAST?
It was not the first time a French president has promised to break with past French politics on the continent.
Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande declared while visiting Senegal in 2012 that “the time of La Francafrique is over”, referring to a shadowy network of diplomats, soldiers and businessmen who manipulated African leaders for decades after independence.
But it comes at a tense time, when French troops are being sucked deeper into a years-long battle to quell Islamist militancy in the Sahel region.
France has 4,000 troops deployed there, and there are mixed feelings about their presence - highlighted in a bitter row between France and Mali over the deaths of 11 Malian troops being held captive by Islamist militants in a French air strike.
The French are pinning their hopes on the so-called G5 Sahel force being set up by regional country’s with French and American backing. It launched a campaign on Oct. 28 amid growing unrest in the desert reaches of the region, where jihadists allied to al Qaeda or inspired by Islamic State roam undetected.
Macron earlier told journalists G5 had been too slow to get established.
He said he would call for greater co-operation between Europe and Africa to tackle human trafficking and he touted a European initiative to rescue African migrants from being enslaved in Libya.
The exchange with heckling students was typical Macron, who during his presidential campaign often managed to turn initially hostile crowds in his favour by answering questions head on.
“You speak to me like I‘m a colonial power, but I don’t want to look after electricity in Burkina Faso. That’s the work of your president,” he retorted to one hostile questioner.
Additional reporting by John Irish, Richard Lough and Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Alison Williams