New unity alliance
by RICKEY SINGH
A SIGNIFICANT new "unity alliance" for trade, economic and political co-operation between Africa and South America, with Caribbean involvement, has been established.
It came at the just-concluded "First Africa-South America Summit" in the Nigerian capital of Abuja that was preceded months earlier by preparatory meetings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in Santiago, Chile.
Two Caribbean Community leaders were among some 60 Heads of State and Government from Africa and South America attending the summit Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana and Runaldo Venetiaan of Suriname.
High points of the summit, as outlined in an "Abuja Declaration And Plan Of Action On Peace, Security And Development", and released last week include the creation of a permanent "Africa-South America Co-operative Forum" that is to meet every two years in rotating capitals of the two continents.
Pursuit of co-operation
There are also plans for the establishment of an Africa-South America Investment Bank and the active pursuit of co-operation in areas such as trade, investment, energy, agriculture, technology and tourism development.
According to the Abuja Declaration and other information obtained from Brussels-based diplomats of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, the summit leaders, armed with the results of work done by their technocrats and ministers, were "anxious to demonstrate the seriousness of their collective commitment".
Consequently, they agreed to the immediate establishment of a temporary secretariat in Abuja, to be provided by Nigeria, pending the formal functioning of the "Africa-South America Cooperative Forum".
The proposed investment bank, expected to be largely funded by the more developed participating member states, is to be a primary mechanism for financing infrastructural development projects.
Bridge of understanding
At the formal opening, host of the summit, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo told his colleagues, among them South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Brazil's Luiz Inancio Lula daSilva, of the necessity for building "a permanent bridge of understanding, friendship, co-operation and common security".
As Obasanjo sees it, the summit "must be the beginning of an enduring partnership in co-operation for the benefits of our peoples.... It will be the litmus test of our collective capacity to accelerate the progress of cooperation and collaboration...."
For Brazil's President Lula, convincingly re-elected last month for a second term, South America and Africa have an obligation to join hands and commit their resources to challenging the prevailing economic and political order to help secure the "respect and benefits" the peoples of the two continents deserve.
Libya's Gaddafi called for active consideration of a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation (SATO).
President Jagdeo, whose government is scheduled to host next year's Rio Summit in Georgetown, urged that the Abuja Declaration must not be left to be remembered with disappointment as an initiative that resulted in "another long list of good intentions". Rather, as a good example of shared political will to achieve concrete results through sustained meaningful cooperation.
The Guyanese head of state and his Surinamese counterpart were also due to participate in a two-day summit of South American leaders scheduled to end yesterday in Bolivia.
The outcome of the Abuja summit will be among matters to be discussed at the summit in the Bolivian capital of La Paz.
CARICOM leaders will be briefed on the outcome of both the Abuja and La Paz summits.