Afro-Arab Summit: African leaders strike economic deals with rich Arab states

Kuwait City, Kuwait (PANA) - The Third Summit of African and Arab leaders which opened here Tuesday offers a new definition in the conduct of diplomatic relations between Africa and its international partners under the leadership of the African Union (AU).

Revived three years after its last meeting under the joint leadership of the late former Libyan leader Moummar Kadhafi, the Afro-Arab Summit has so far been dominated by bilateral deal-making.

But at the centre of the talks is a desire by the Arab leaders to tap millions of under-utilised farm acreage in Africa to boost food security.

The petro-dollar powered economies are also keen to fund major electric power and infrastructure projects, estimated to cost US$ 700 billion.

In total, Kuwaiti officials put a count of 800 major projects in Africa in need of funding.

A Correspondent of PANA at the Summit reported that Arab foreign ministers met earlier with their African counterparts to explore ways of accelerating the partnership through a larger common-market of Africa and the Gulf states.

There were also concerns amongst some delegates after it became clear that the security aspects of the cooperation agenda was pulled off the table.

However, AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said progress was clearly made on the security front since the direct talks opened between the two sides in 2010.

“The two sides have taken practical measures to create direct working relations between their peace and security Councils in order to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure complementarity in dealing with issues of common concern in Africa and the Arab World,” she told a ministerial session Sunday.

The list of African leaders present at the Summit shows a new enthusiasm by both sides to tap into each other’s wealth as both sides hope to push through joint economic projects to cement the partnership.

Egypt’s interim President, Adly Mansour, among Arab leaders to emerge from the Arab Spring that swept through the two regions, was quoted by Kuwaiti media as praising the Summit’s regional approach.

“This Summit is of extreme significance in the light of Egypt’s focus on bi-regional cooperation,” Mansour said.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir, the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are amongst some 35 African leaders.

In total, the Summit is to be graced by leaders from 71 countries.

At the centre of the talks is a 2011-2016 Afro-Arab Strategy that aims to boost investments, trade and economic projects likely to benefit the two regions.

Leaders from both sides see a huge potential to boost Africa’s share of the global trade with the two regions controlling nearly a quarter of the world’s entire wealth.

However, Kuwait appears keen to set a new high for the Africa friendship.

“We have enough natural resources to achieve results,” said Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabbah Khallid Al Hamad Al Sabbah.

The Arab League, which is co-hosting the Summit with the AU Commission, is made of 22 countries. At least nine of those countries are also members of the AU.

Kenyan delegates at the Summit said Monday they were seeking investors for the joint plan to build a series of oil pipelines, an oil refinery and a second port in Lamu to ease transport across East Africa.

The Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPPSET) aims to create an alternative route for South Sudan and Ethiopia to access ports for both exports and imports.

Gulf economies are emerging as top drivers of new growth in Africa. Economic dealings between African traders and their Arab counterparts has increased in recent time.

Kuwait’s Trade Minister Anas Al-Saleh said his country had already committed US$ 6.4 billion around Africa but noted that demand for investments in Africa remained huge.

Kuwait, one of the major petro-dollar powered economies, insists the commitment to revive the Afro-Arab ties was part of the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s foreign policy.

Several African leaders have signed bilateral financing deals to boost trade, education and health.

Malawian President Joyce Banda signed a health financing deal with an independent Kuwaiti charity fund to revitalize health facilities in her country while the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development also committed US$ 13.6 million to Cabo Verde to rehabilitate hospitals in the country.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 19Nov2013

19 november 2013 17:54:40

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