The Herald Harare Malabo Kuda Bwititi
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

African and Arab nations have potential to form a formidable force that can shake the global economic order for the benefit of people from the two regions, President Mugabe said here yesterday.Speaking at the 4th Africa-Arab Heads of State summit that ended here yesterday, President Mugabe said the two regions should foster mutually beneficial partnerships to undo the imbalance of the North/South cooperation skewed in favour of countries from the north.

« The unbalanced North/South cooperation, an extension of the colonial system, has demonstrated repeated failures, especially for less privileged countries of the South.

« They have simply tagged along, and only ‘developed’ along the dictates of the wealthy northerners. « For the countries of the South, the economic pattern has been the continuous export of primary products and raw materials to feed the insatiable industrial needs of the northerners. »

President Mugabe said Africans and Arabs could leverage on geographic propinquity and cultural background to boost trade and investment.

« It is my fervent hope that the Africa-Arab Cooperation can, and should be utilised, as an instrument to enhance trade and investment. « This relationship should be taken to higher levels that reflect the strong cultural ties, the geographical proximity and the tremendous potential that exists within and between our two regions. »

He said global economic challenges such as fickle commodity prices and currencies could be combated through strategic partnerships.

« Most of our countries are currently under pressure due to global commodity prices, fluctuating currencies and shrinking GDP growth. « We, therefore, need to identify and accelerate transformation of key sectors of our economies through building strategic partnerships, if we are to alleviate the negative impact of these challenges. »

President Mugabe said Africa could be a reliable partner for Arab states as the continent had shown its commitment to progress by undertaking a number of initiatives to chart the course for development.

« Since the last Africa-Arab Summit in Kuwait, in 2013, Africa has not been stagnant in its desire to progress and improve the lives and well-being of its people. In 2015, the African Union adopted Agenda 2063, which is a 50-year collective continental vision and roadmap.

« The Agenda aims to speed-up our actions in the eradication of poverty by 2025, to promote science, technology, research and innovation to transform growth and industrialisation through beneficiation and value-addition of natural resources and to recognise agriculture and agro-business. »

President Mugabe said the Zim-Asset blueprint had tapped into support from Arab countries as the country had been a recipient of multiple development assistance from Arab countries over the years.

« In Zimbabwe we have been implementing an economic blueprint called Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), which focuses on beneficiation and value-addition to our agricultural and mining resources and infrastructural development.

« Zimbabwe is a beneficiary of assistance from Arab countries’ multilateral development financial institutions such as the Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

« Indeed, this has transformed our infrastructure, enhanced capacity building and improved our agriculture sector. We hope this long standing relationship has laid the foundation for further mutual consultations and cooperation. »

President Mugabe told the summit that reform of the United Nations should remain top of the agenda following the decision taken at the AU summit in Rwanda this year to sustain the push for restructuring of the global body.

« Allow me to bring to your attention some global issues that have been on the agenda for a very long time. Topping that list is certainly the reform of the United Nations system.

« The AU common position on the reforms, including the Security Council is clearly spelt out in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration. « I need not emphasise our strong commitment to a comprehensive reform that reflects current global realities, as unanimously reaffirmed at the July 2016 AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda. »

President Mugabe also affirmed support for the state of Palestine as well as Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in their quest for self-determination and national sovereignty.

Meanwhile, there was drama over the Saharawi Republic after three countries led by Morocco boycotted the summit’s Ministerial meetings in protest over its presence. In an interview yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the matter was later resolved at the Heads of States level.

« The drama relating to Morocco’s objection in relation to presence of a flag and a plaque of the Saharawi Republic took place during the meetings at the Ministerial level.

« The stand-off led to a delay in the start of the meeting by up to seven hours and it only resumed after the Co-Chairs insisted that Morocco’s concerns would be heard.

« When it came to the Heads of State level, it was agreed that on the African side, everyone is entitled to attend all partnership meetings and that point was not negotiable and in the end nobody raised it.

There was no walkout as what happened during the Ministerial meetings. »

Minister Mumbengewi said the summit had adopted three main resolutions, the Malabo declaration, affirming support to the Palestine state and work ahead for the next three years.

« There were three documents that were adopted, the Malabo declaration, the resolution on Palestine and then ten resolutions on the next summit ‘The resolutions were directed mainly to the two secretariats as to the assignments they were required to undertake between now and 2019. The Malabo declaration is basically a political, socio-economic document which defines areas of co-operation at the political level, at the economic level and generally the framework for co-operation. »

The summit was held under the theme « Together for a Sustainable Economic Development » and was jointly organised by the African Union Commission and the League of Arab States with the aim of promoting development by strengthening trade and investment among Gulf and African states.

Several Heads of State and Governments from African countries and the Gulf attended the high profile convention.