Arab and African leaders have begun a two-day summit in Kuwait to review steps to promote economic ties between Gulf and African states.
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah opened the third Arab-Africa summit on Tuesday with a pledge to provide $1bn in low-interest loans to African countries over a five-year period.
The Emir said that Kuwait also intends to earmark an annual award on one million dollars to Africa for research.
Days ahead of the summit, the emir struck a key point, ‘political and peace security’ off the agenda.
However, according to Al Jazeera’s Safeeyah Kharsany, reporting from the summit, although the emir maintained in his address that focus would remain on economic and development aspects over the two-day summit, to push the process of cooperation between the two regions into its next phase, he also made specific mention of the “tragic situation in Syria”.
He called on the United Nation’s Peace and Security Council to carry out its responsibilities by agreeing on a plan to end the fighting in the country, referring to the second Geneva Conference as an historic opportunity to reach a political solution.
He called on “all the participating parties to work honestly and sincerely to reach a political solution” on Syria, Kharsany reported.
Creating a common market
The meeting is the first of its kind since 2010, when leaders met in Libya prior to the Arab uprisings that toppled long-standing dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East.
Thirty-four heads of state, seven vice presidents and three heads of government are attending the summit, which brings together 71 countries and organisations, according to organisers.
Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah said the “Partners in Development and Investment” summit will discuss a proposal by the Africa-Arab Economic Forum to create an Arab-African common market for a combined population of around 1.2 billion people.
The leaders will also focus on how to accelerate investment flows into Africa, which has huge potentials but is facing an acute investment gap. According to the World Bank, Africa needs around $30bn a year in the field of energy and power.
Africa has 12 percent of global oil reserves and 42 percent of its gold deposits. The discovery of large quantities of natural gas off Africa’s east coasts has added to the continent’s economic potential.
The leaders are also expected to discuss establishing an Africa-Arab Technical and Coordination Committee on Migration to help protect migrant workers.