Feature article on Egypt and Africa

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Egypt and Africa

By Alaa Thabet

Editor in chief of Al-Ahram Newspaper

Some people believe that Egypt has only been interested in Africa because of the recent issues associated with Ethiopia’s “Renaissance Dam”. However, it is hard to believe that the country’s foreign policy which is dedicated since 2013 to enhance its African ties, is based on a single motive that has recently popped up. It is similarly hard to look at the past six- years of active interaction between the Egyptian leadership and the African leaders as part of Cairo’s negotiations with the Ethiopian dam.

From his very first day in authority, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sis, realized the significantly important African roots of his country both economically and politically. President Sisi has certainly relied upon the strong ties and the valuable credibility developed between the two sides during the fifties and the sixties of the past century. It was thus more of the nature of things that Sisi started his first trip as president of Egypt to Equatorial Guinea where the 23rd summit of the African League was held in 2014. At the time, Africa has just ushered in the move de-freezing Egypt’s membership at the League and thus the summit was the beginning of a real and active come back of Egypt to its African neighbors.

For the past six years, President Sisi has always been in touch with the African leaders, visited and received a good number of them and raised the issues of interest to the continent in so many international venues. It was glaringly obvious that the African file has topped the Egyptian government’s agenda and marked as top priority by its foreign policy decision makers; indicating the end of an era when Egypt was kept afar from its African roots.

The serious attitude with which Egypt has been handling the African file is a proof that the country is looking forward to promote and bring to light the issues of the continent at the international arena. Since Cairo took over the chairmanship of the African Union last year, the African questions have been put under extreme light by the international policy makers in such an unprecedented vigorous and active forums. Choosing president Sisi, by the African leaders, has also crowned the mutual trust and the need to achieve a long awaited economic development for the continent.

President Sisi said and believes that Africa is the future of the world because of its resources and the young people who will be part and parcel of the development process. The African states have been able to achieve great strides in settling several chronic issues thus paving the way for a more and settled path to economic progress. The education rate has reached more than 80 percent over the past few years, in addition to the development of electricity and water networks. Those hectic efforts echo the continent’s rather unlimited and giant resources, thus stressing the fact that Africa will be the locomotive of economic progress for the international economy once its needs of investments are met.

The continent has unlimited resources of clean energy especially the solar energy and electricity generated from its several leading rivers.
Africa has always been around when President Sisi visited China, Russia, the US, Japan, Europe and the United Nations. He has always been presenting projects and enterprises needed for the continent to move forward. Africa is no longer the source of illegal migrants and terrorism, but has became the Mecca for marketers, investors of mineral resources as well as agricultural and animal treasures.

The main strategic target of Egypt policy in Africa is to bring back the continent to its place at the top of the agenda of priorities for decision- makers in this country. Cairo’s policy of interaction with the African states is based on promoting and strengthening joint relations especially countries of the Nile basin. Egypt has also worked to activate its participation and contribution to the African Union. The country has also been active in presenting to the world community the continent’s efforts of development.

Therefore, such active role can hardly be seen within the limited scope of having an issue with Ethiopia but more of a strategy of cooperation, integration and comprehensive view of mutual interest. In his speech to the African Summit 2016, President Sisi stressed the fact that it is inevitable for the African countries to embrace the regional and continental model of development. Even when it came to the issue of the Nile water, Sisi embraced the policy of cooperation and dialogue. Despite the fact that the Nile is the lifeline to all Egyptians, Sisi has understood the needs of Ethiopia and its right to use its resources. Meantime, he also stressed that Egyptians have also the right to live peacefully on the shores of the Nile as has always been the case for centuries and to pursue their economic interests as well.

Egypt strategy has thus reckoned the fact that all problems and questions could be settled through bilateral talks and cooperation. One can say that Egypt’s strategy for the development in the African continent is based on three major axis.

The first is to pave the path for the process of sustainable development by securing a rather peaceful environment clear of tension and conflicts.

The second is activating the international community’s participation to help pre-empt problems that have been hindering the continent’s development.

Thus, instead of wasting the international efforts and resources in fighting illegal immigration or chronic diseases, the continent shall be independently capable of leading its sustainable development process once the needed investments are brought to the limelight.

The third angle of Cairo’s strategy is developing an integrated and comprehensive view for development throughout the continent. Cultivating the lands could also help improving the industrial products which in turn will create more jobs to the young people in Africa.

President Sisi has invested a lot of his international ties to promote the African cause, make better use of the continent resources, and activate what has been left behind of African- Egyptian long and fruitful relationships.

The normal outcome could be seen and assessed though one of the part venues of participation when the logo of Egypt annual Book Fair has illuminated the fact of Egypt- Africa… the cultural diversity”, and highlighting the culture of its guest of honor Senegal throughout the fair… meantime selecting its southern city of Aswan as the capital of Africa’s culture. Egypt aspirations for Africa is very much of its aspiration to its own people… it is the longing for better future and the hope to bring about all the needs and resources to fulfill the peoples’ dream of the future.

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