Caracas, March 1st 2013 (Correo del Orinoco International) – The signing of twenty-seven new economic and social agreements between the nations of South America and Africa was the product of three days of meetings held between representatives of more than 60 countries in Equatorial Guinea last week.
The Third South America Africa Summit (ASA) took place just outside the capital of Malabo, where heads of states and high-ranking officials outlined ways to improve commercial, technological and transportation collaboration between the two continents.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as well as Bolivia’s President Evo Morales were in attendance on Friday as were the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Suriname and Cape Verde, among others.
“We are here to contribute with our experiences together, always thinking about the liberation of our countries in Africa as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean”, said President Morales on Friday.
During his speech, Morales drew attention to the need to take back the natural resources that have been “looted” by the United States and Europe, highlighting the gains that have been made as a result of such policies in the Americas.
“We began to take back our resources and the result has been a change in the economic and financial history of much of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean”, the Bolivian head of state asserted.
“Unity for the dignity of our peoples, unity for equality, and, above all, unity for our liberation”, he added.
This sentiment of economic and political independence was echoed by the majority of ASA representatives including Nigerian Foreign Minister, Viola Adaku Onwuliri.
“Let’s show our ability to make tangible decisions that will lead to economic development and the integration of Africa and South America.
With true political will, we will be able to achieve it, just a s we have already been able to overcome the burdens of colonialism and racism”, Onwuliri said.
For his part, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua read a letter written by Hugo Chavez who apologized for his inability to participate personally in the conference.
“I truly lament, in the deepest of ways, my inability to be physically present with you and I reiterate once again...my most irrevocable commitment to the cause of union between our people”, the Venezuelan President wrote.
In his missive, Chavez hailed the “indivisible historic ties” that bind the regions and which have obliged the two continents “to walk together until the very end”.
“I will never be tired of saying it: we are one people. We must find each other, beyond the formalities and the speeches, in the feeling of unity."
"In this way we will take our people out of the labyrinth where they had been cast by colonialism and, in the 20th century, by neoliberal capitalism”, the head of state said.
EXPANDING THE ALLIANCE
Apart from the commercial accords inked on Saturday, participating countries also expressed their support for Argentina in its territorial dispute with the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands.
A further resolution saw the condemnation of the more than 50 year-old US blockade on Cuba and a declaration calling for Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.
Many countries expressed their desire for the expansion of the ASA alliance, advocating the inclusion of all of Latin America and the Caribbean, not only those members belonging to the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) bloc.
President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea described the absence of these nations as “unjustifiable” given the important commonalities that exist between Africa and the developing nations of the Americas.
“The history of our continents, largely exploited by other countries, compels us to take measures of South-South cooperation which will allow us to emerge with liberty, independence and coexistence in this globalized world of confronting interests”, Nguema said.
Following this line, the President of the Spanish-speaking African nation proposed that ASA be incorporated into the recently established Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) alliance that includes all countries in the Americas except the United States and Canada.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jaua reported that Nguema’s proposal has received the support of many allied Latin American nations and that “what needs to be done is to discuss [the proposal] with Unasur and then with CELAC”.
Jaua additionally informed that there will be an encounter between the leading members of ASA next month in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to guarantee the materialization of the agreements signed last weekend.
“On April 26, there will be a meeting of the Follow-Up Commission which is made up of Nigeria, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea to see through the accords that have been solidified in this third summit,” the Venezuelan Minister said.
FINDING ITS FOOTING
The tri-annual ASA first took place in Abuya, Nigeria in 2006 and was followed by a second encounter in Margarita Island, Venezuela in 2009.
While many member nations agree that more needs to be done to strengthen the alliance, trade between the continents has grown from $7.2 billion in 2002 to $39.4 billion in 2011.
Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino explained that relations between the two regions have not been easy over the years “because we don’t know each other very much and we don’t have much work experience together.”
At the same time, Patino affirmed that there are great possibilities for collaboration and that the two continents “have much to offer one another” in ways that go beyond pure commercial relations.
Ecuador is slated to host the next ASA summit in 2016.