Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 21, September 2009
Africa, South America aim for greater cooperation
by Kizito Sikuka

Relations between Africa and South America will be strengthened when leaders from the two continents meet late in September to review progress in implementing joint projects and decisions made at the previous summit in 2006.

At their inaugural Africa South America (ASA) Heads of State and Government Summit held in Abuja, Nigeria in November 2006, the leaders adopted a number of resolutions included in the ‘Abuja Declaration’ and a ‘Plan of Action’ that call for wider cooperation between the two regions in different areas of economic development.

The energy sector, one of the most underdeveloped industries in Africa, was identified as a priority for collaboration with plans to establish inter-regional partnerships and promotion of investment in Africa by South America, in mining and harnessing of fossil fuels and renewable energy.

The Plan of Action further tasked the African Energy Commission (AFREC) and the Latin America Energy Organization (OLADE) to craft a strategic plan to promote sustainable development of energy resources while respecting the sovereign rights of Member States to manage and regulate their natural resources.

The joint policy will also consider the possibility of setting up an Energy Commission for the two regions to coordinate development in the sector.

With regard to infrastructure development, the Summit pledged to jointly identify as well as fund projects such as road and rail expansions in the two regions.

ASA leaders urged Member States to speedily develop direct air routes and rationalize sea routes between the two regions.

Under the trade and investment pact, the Summit approved a plan to establish an African-South American Bank to finance development in respective continents.

The next ASA Summit to review progress made in implementing agreed decisions will be held in Caracas, Venezuela on 26-27 September.

The Summit was scheduled to take place last year in line with the declaration at the first ASA Summit that meeting will be held every two years, but was postponed for logistical reasons.

Since Africa held the previous Summit in 2006, the September meeting will be held in South America.

"Based on this provision, it was decided that the second ASA Summit would be held in September 2009, in Venezuela," the Africa Union (AU) said in a statement.

"It (Summit) will consider, among others, reports of the different functioning groups entitled to coordinate cooperation programmes in each of the adopted areas in the Abuja Declaration and Plan of Action by the first ASA Summit."

The AU is the coordinating arm of Africa in the ASA meetings while the Union of South America (UNASUR) represents South America.

In preparation for the Summit, the AU convened a joint conference in May of the African and South American Ministers responsible for Energy to set the agenda for the Heads of State and Government meeting

The Ministers conference that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, also identified joint plans and projects for approval by ASA leaders.

A wide range of stakeholders attended the conference, including the African Development Bank, African regional economic communities, regional power pools, United Nations agencies, African and South American national and regional energy companies, as well as energy experts from the two regions.

Africa and South America enjoy cordial relations and share similar historic and cultural links. In that regard South-South cooperation will see both regions addressing their challenges to reduce poverty and harness untapped natural resources in their respective regions.

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