Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1429, (7 - 13 February 2019)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1429, (7 - 13 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Looking to Africa

Egypt is making Africa a top priority as it prepares to take over chairmanship of the African Union (AU) in 2019. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is scheduled to take part in the 32nd African Summit to be held in Addis Ababa, becoming AU chair during the summit.

In his address to the summit, Al-Sisi will explain Egypt’s plan during its chairmanship of the AU to strengthen peace and security in Africa, topped by resolving conflicts and improving conditions in Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He will also confirm Cairo’s determination to benefit from a long history of cooperation with the African continent in order to contribute to the development of its countries through joint projects.

Egypt will also intensify efforts to ensure realisation of the continent’s 2063 Vision with the aim of achieving comprehensive economic and social development.

One of the key economic projects Egypt has been working on with fellow African nations is aimed at establishing a land road between Cairo and Cape Town as part of a plan to develop Africa. The road would be about 10,300 kilometres long and would start from Alexandria Port on the Mediterranean Sea, passing Cairo, Sudan, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and finally reaching South Africa. Egypt’s part of the road, until the border with Sudan, has been completed and is ready to operate, according to Egyptian officials.

The security challenges facing Africa in the presence of terrorist groups such as IS in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Qaeda in southern Algeria must be overcome to ensure further expansion of the road network.

Considering that water is a matter of national security to Egypt, with the River Nile being the main source of drinking water for more than 100 million people, Cairo will continue developing ties with brotherly Nile Basin states. One of the ambitious projects Egypt has been working on aims at restoring transportation through the River Nile. A river connection project between Alexandria and Lake Victoria should make Egypt a gateway for river transport to Central Africa, a project costing nearly $18 billion. Benefiting from its long-standing positive relations with international finance institutions, Egypt will work hard to assure their support for such ambitious transportation projects in Africa. Another project that Egypt will be working on, confirming that it truly means to strengthen ties to the African continent, aims at linking railways with Africa at a total length of 8,715 kilometres, according to Egypt’s Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat.

Meanwhile, Egypt has been and will remain the link between the Arab and African worlds. The African circle was among the main political circles in the mindset of the architects of the July 1952 Revolution in Egypt. Since that time, Egypt’s solidarity with African countries amid their struggle to regain their independence was a paramount concern to its foreign policy.

Some years later, following the independence of some African countries, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was created in 1963 as a regional organisation that includes all the independent states in the region. The goal of the OAU was to help non-independent African countries to liberate themselves from the repression of colonialism and coordinate efforts of independent states to preserve their sovereignty and achieve economic sustainability and prosperity.

Egypt played a significant role in the formation of this organisation as one of its founding members. It hosted the first conference of an African summit in 1964 and the 29th African Summit in June 1993.

When Egypt chaired the OAU during the periods of 1989-1990 and 1993-1994, the OAU established the first African mechanism for preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. Egypt also contributed to the formation of the African Union (AU) that replaced the OAU. The Egyptian delegation participating in the Lomé Summit in 2000 presented some amendments to the Constitutive Act of the AU in terms of limiting the intervention of the AU in the affairs of member states to cases of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Egyptian efforts in backing the establishment of the AU aimed at forming an African entity that promotes unity and solidarity among African states to achieve the joint political, economic and social interests of member states.

At the economic level, Egypt showed special interest in solving the issue of debt owed by African states to rich countries. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry presented several proposals that outlined a roadmap to solve the African continent’s debt problem, including cancelling some debt, rescheduling the remaining part and urging the World Bank to play a more effective role in financing economic development in Africa and reviving the economies of African countries.

Besides security, water and the economy, Egypt has also offered technical assistance and scholarships to all African countries.

This long history of close cooperation with Africa and President Al-Sisi’s determination to improve ties even further, will assure that the next year in which Egypt chairs the AU will be a fruitful one for both Egypt and the African continent that Egyptians belong to.

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