Africa: Our New Frontier! Saudi-African Councils To Regulate Bilateral Relations
07 April 2016
By Dr. Khaled M.
A professor of an international journalism class in an American university
requested each of us to come with a proposal for a case study in a foreign
country. One of these proposals was titled ''Journalism in the Country of
''You mean South Africa?'' The professor asked. ''No, Sir. I mean the whole
country of Africa! You know … the one with jungles, elephants and half-naked
people. Like in the Lion King movie!,'' came the answer.
I had to intervene and explain to the graduate student that Africa is a
continent, like Asia and Europe, not a single nation. It has 54 countries,
with hundreds of races, cultures, languages and backgrounds.
The student was stunned. She referred to other movies to explain her
confusion, ''Sorry, but in Tarzan and The Roots, they don't show but one
place, same people!''
The girl was an A student, still she knew little about Africa. We are not any
better. Most of the world knows few facts about one of the greatest
Africa, according to Wikipedia, is the world's second-largest and
second-most-populous continent, after Asia and before Europe, with abundant
natural resources. At about 30.2 million km2 (11.7 million square miles),
including adjacent islands, it covers six percent of Earth's total surface
area and 20.4 percent of its total land.
It has 1.1 billion people, as of 2013, mostly Muslims, with substantial number
of Arabs. Africa's population is the youngest amongst all continents; the
median age in 2012 was 19.7, when the worldwide median age was 30.4.
Unfortunately, world ignorance has led to arrogance, and that, in turn, led to
Still, European colonizers, such as France and Britain, kept their presence
and maintained relations with former colonies. Organizations, like The
Commonwealth of Nations (formerly, the British Commonwealth), helped. On the
other hand, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, Holland and Portugal were less
The USA and China are late-comers, competing on investments, trade and
From our side, Egypt and Libya had some influence — more so in the sixties and
seventies than lately. Morocco withdrew years ago over disagreement regarding
the Western Sahara issue. Some Arab countries were involved in conflicts with
neighboring black-African countries — Libya vs. Chad; Mauritania vs Senegal;
Sudan vs. Eritrea. Since its inception, Arab participation in the African
Union (formerly, the Organization of African Unity) went from strong to weak.
Arabs and Muslims cannot afford to lose Africa. It is part of our world —
geographically, historically, socially and culturally.
Realizing such importance, the late King Faisal toured Africa
in the 1960s. His visits to Mali and Uganda, turned them away from Israel, and
led them to support the Arab cause, and to join Islamic organizations. Saudi
Arabia hosted numerous African leaders since then, and our bilateral relations
have become stronger.
Recently, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir visited a number of
sub-Saharan African nations, such as Guinea, Benin, Tanzania, Kenya,
Mauritania, South Africa, the Comoros, and Burkina Faso. Not to mention the
Northern African countries, from Egypt and Sudan to Maghreb nations — Tunisia,
Algiers and Morocco.
He also joined The African Union Peace and Security Council Summit in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, last January, to represent his country, as Saudi Arabia
received an observer membership.
King Salman has received a record number of African leaders in recent months,
the last was the South African President. More are expected to visit soon,
including leaders of Somalia and Chad.
During these visits, many agreements have been signed that would enhance
economic, political, environmental and military cooperation. Many African
nations are now part of the Islamic Coalition against Terrorism. Their Chiefs
of Staff were in Riyadh, this week, to join the first meetings of the
alliance. This comes only two weeks after the conclusion of the Northern
Thunder drills, with noted African military participation.
The Horn of Africa nations are now solidly allied with Saudi Arabia against
terrorism and Iranian intervention. Djibouti and Sudan were first in. The
establishment of a Saudi military base, in Djibouti, has been announced.
Sudan has realized the evil Iranian schemes to destabilize and closed all
so-called Imam Khomeini Cultural Centers, denounced Iranian intervention in
Arab affairs, and joined the Arab Coalition and Islamic Alliance. Eritrea
withdrew access privileges given earlier to Iran's military warships.
Ethiopia denied ex-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh asylum
and support. Somalia cut its diplomatic ties with Iran and eliminated Iranian
presence in the country.
As a result of Saudi diplomatic efforts, the Red-Sea and Horn of Africa,
today, are cleared of Iran's influence.
I believe it is time to institutionalize our Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) relationships with Africa. We need Cooperation Councils, similar to The
Summit of South American-Arab Countries, and the GCC-EU Joint Council. We may
also establish Saudi-African councils to regulate bilateral relations, on
group and/or single basis.
Africa is inviting … we should accept the golden invitation!
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi