Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg's Pioneering Visits to Senegal and South Africa

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: December 20, 2023; 16:07 ♦ (Vindobona)

In an unprecedented diplomatic mission, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg was the first Austrian official to visit Senegal and South Africa, setting new impulses in Austrian-African relations and opening the 31st Austrian Cultural Forum in Pretoria.

Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg opened the business forum between Austria and South Africa in Pretoria. / Picture: © BMEIA Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres / Gruber / Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Austria has increased its focus on its economic and diplomatic relations with Africa, as reported. Austria's export volume to Africa amounted to just 1.9 billion euros in 2021, which corresponds to 1.1% of Austria's total exports. However, experts emphasize the potential that lies in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The Foreign Ministry is providing support and making progress in dialog with African countries.

Dakar: Beginning of Austrian-Senegalese relations

Alexander Schallenberg began his Africa tour in Dakar, Senegal, where he met with Foreign Minister Annette Seck Ndiaye. The two signed an agreement to deepen political, economic and security cooperation. Schallenberg emphasized the importance of Senegal as a "beacon of stability" in West Africa and stressed the need not to ignore the region, particularly in view of the threats posed by instability and jihadism.

The talks also addressed the deteriorating security situation in West Africa, including the attempted coups in Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, as well as increasing illegal migration to Europe. Schallenberg emphasized the importance of strengthening relations with Senegal in order to contribute to regional stability. He also highlighted the potential for trade relations, especially in areas such as green tech and renewable energies.

Pretoria: Constructive talks despite differences

Schallenberg continued his trip in South Africa, where he met with his counterpart Naledi Pandor. Despite differences of opinion on security policy issues, such as the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and solidarity with Israel following the Hamas terrorist attack, relations were described as a "vibrant partnership". Schallenberg emphasized the need for exchange with countries such as South Africa and reaffirmed the common goal of finding diplomatic solutions to crises in compliance with international law.

He pointed out South Africa's key role in the multilateral context and urged comprehensive cooperation on global challenges such as stability, peace, migration, climate change and human rights. Economic cooperation, particularly in the areas of energy and water management, was also highlighted.

Austrian-South African cooperation, which is already characterized by special proximity, is also to be further intensified in the economic sector. More than 70 Austrian companies have branches in South Africa. The energy and water sectors offer further opportunities for cooperation. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also opened the Austrian-South African Business Forum in Pretoria.

Cultural bridges: The Austrian Cultural Forum in Pretoria

A highlight of the trip was the opening of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Pretoria. This forum symbolizes a milestone in Austrian-South African cultural relations and aims to exploit South Africa's potential in the arts, science and climate protection. Schallenberg emphasized the importance of this new hub in Austria's global cultural network and the opportunities for cooperation in the fields of culture, art and science.

With these historic visits to Senegal and South Africa, Austria has taken important steps to deepen and diversify its relations with Africa, emphasizing mutual respect, cooperation and a deep understanding of regional dynamics.