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Africa: Our New Frontier! Saudi-African Councils To Regulate Bilateral Relations

07 April 2016

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

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 Africa!''

''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 continents.

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 negligence.

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 interested.

The USA and China are late-comers, competing on investments, trade and political influence.

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 kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi
 

  EsinIslam.Com

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