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Africa and Latin America move from engagement into marriage

Caracas, 19 Jul, ABN (Tessa Marsman)- A discreet breakthrough has been reached, this week at the reunion of the coordinators of the second Latin America- Africa summit that will be held in 2008 in Caracas. Seven themes of negotiation and a series of organizational agreements must pave the road that leads from loose negotiations between the two continents to an economical, social and cultural union.

It was a modest reunion in the luxurious Melia Hotel where the Ghanese, Brazilian, Bolivian, Venezuelan and the delegation of the African Union met, in preparation of the second summit between the two continents.

The main issue to be agreed upon in the coming summit will be energy. Both continents are big suppliers of energy and with the shift of the United Stated, the biggest energy consumer in the world, away from the Middle East, an economical tie between the two oil-producing continents will give them a stronger negotiating position.

Additionally in Africa the production of an alternative fuel, ethanol, is taking off in full speed. Latin America with Brazil ahead, is already advanced in the ethanol crop production. Consequently among other African countries, Tanzania has showed its interest in Brazilian help to develop bio fuel fields. This said the ambassador and chief of the Delegation of Brazil Fernando Jaques Magalhaes, in an interview to the Bolivarian News Agency.

Ethanol is a product made out of agricultural products. Agriculture and environment will be another item on the agenda.

However, despite its energy production, Africa is suffering from a severe energy crisis. Due to the high energy prices despite Africa’s abundant energy resources, it currently has the world’s lowest rate of access to modern energy.

“Countries such as Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo among others are in dire need of energy”, writes the newspaper the Ghanaian Chronicle.

In a speech on the reunion in Caracas the President of the Commission of the African Union and Chief of delegation, Alpha Oumar Konaré comments on this issue that “Africa has many natural resources but is not in charge of their own resources. It consumes what cannot be produced and sells what is needed for itself”.

Konoré sees the solution in the connection between Africa and Latin America. “Through this connection we want to try to free ourselves from the domination and ultimately from hunger”.

Latin American investments

Fortunately the affection between Africa and Latin America is mutual. Besides a number of social programs that are run currently by Latin America in the African continent like health and education programs, economically Latin America is very present and ready to formalize these loose projects in an African-Latin American cooperation.

Venezuela for example imports textiles from Mali and is looking with interest at the sweet water production in South Africa. “We import marble from the north of Africa and interchange seeds with Egypt”, says Venezuela‘s deputy foreign minister for Africa, Reinaldo Bolívar in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias.

“The Egyptian eat Venezuelan water melon”, says Bolívar, “While Venezuelan lubricant is used in almost all Africa”.

Venezuela is observer in the African Union.

Brazil is, up till now, even more present on the overseas continent. Together with other southern economic powerhouses including India, South Africa and China, are largely responsible for a dramatic surge in trade and investments among the 132 developing nations in the global South. South-South trade was 562 billion dollars in 2004, wrote the press agency Inter Press Service at the end of last year.

Brazil invests, just like the Chinese, not only in energy, but also in infrastructure, something the west has hardly been doing.

“While the West is talking about good governance in Africa, China, India and south Corea are building infrastructures: roads, power generation and railway” commends Hakeen Baba-Ahmed, ambassador and secretary of the ministry of foreign relations of Nigeria in an interview with the Bolivarian Press Agency.

The Brazilian ambassador sees the development of an infrastructure as a mere opportunity. “Africa will be a big consuming market and a big labor market as well, but what we need to is provide the proper conditions to the continent. We need to give them the conditions to manage their own development”, he says.

Besides infrastructure, Brazil invests in coal from Mozambique. Through its company Companhia Vale de Rio Doce, one of the biggest metal and mining companies of the world, it exploits the region of Moatize. And it opened up an research center in Accra, Ghana. This Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation’s (EMBRAPA) improved its coffee production with the knowledge of their African brothers.

Bolivia restricted their proposals for the agenda of 2008 mainly to a cultural and social exchange “between the indigenous people of Africa and Bolivia”, said the representative of Bolivia. The only economical theme they the gas producing country was interested to participate in the reunion of UNASUR-AFREC held by the ministers of energy in Algeria, the first trimester of 2008

Follow up

Further meetings will be a reunion of experts in Ethiopia and a reunion of the ministers of commerce in Rabat, Morocco. The dates are not made public yet.

Social programs that are proposed and partly initiated are the installation of Radio of the South and a University of the South. Venezuela will continue it contribution to a food program of the UN, Program Mundial de Alimentos. Furthermore they are investing in education programs in Kenya and Somalia.

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