02 Jul A Speech in the African Media
In his book “A Discourse on Politics”, the late journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal states: “Understanding is necessary before final judgment, but to a reasonable extent, because exaggerated understanding might deliver judgments invalid. If humans became intellectually superior they tend to appreciate things, which will make them surrender to tolerance and subsequently unintentionally to forgiveness. Forgiveness is an exclusive property for history alone, not humans, just as history is the kingdom of God”.
I contemplated these words as I was heading to International University of Africa TV Channel which invited me to talk about the importance of Afro-Gulf relations. I was so keen to send a message to certain African elites who view these relations as a kind of modern colonization but found myself confronted by a hard mission that will never be accomplished in a TV interview that would last for only two hours. Instead, I preferred to thoroughly tackle the history of Afro-Gulf relations, centuries before the European colonization of Africa and which began at the time of Islamic conquests and strengthened by Hajj convoys flowing from the entire African continent to the Arabian Peninsula.
I didn’t forget to cite the most prominent African leaders having credit for the promotion of cultural and religious education and propagation of Arabic language in Africa, in addition to reviving Hajj routes to the Holy sacred Land like Sheikh Mansa Musa, founder of Sankore University, considered to be the center of knowledge in Africa. Sheikh Mansa Musa kept giving out gold to whosoever he meets during his journey from Mali to Holy Mecca, a thing that led to a decrease in gold prices and the global economy experienced a state of inflation for twenty years as a result. I also highlighted the cultural role Gulf universities could play in collaboration with African Gulf-supported universities, such as the Islamic University in Comoros, Jaber Al-Ahmed Educational Center in Senegal, Somalia University for Medical Sciences, and King Faisal University in Chad, especially that Gulf countries had supported the Association of African Universities Conference in May 2017, which I had the honor of attending and delivering a speech concerning the importance of boosting Afro-Gulf relations from a cultural viewpoint via cultural forums held at African universities.
There are two main points I always highlight when talking to African media: African labour in the Arabian Gulf countries and the Gulf presence in the African continent. African labor working in Gulf countries receives much attention and care. In turn, this labor performs its duties in a professional manner, being a partner in the development and progress experienced by various services sectors in Gulf countries. The Gulf presence in Africa is more of economic and investment rather than political. The Gulf side lacks factual information about Africa and its successive crises which should be studied in order to develop strategies to converge views between the two sides, a matter that will help Gulf countries to understand these crises and thus participate in resolving them.
Concerning the African side, despite the availability of educated elite of promising political and economic vision but it still stands in need for support on all levels to transform this vision to reality.
It’s worth mentioning that there is a prevailing opinion in some African capitals that I fear will turn into a common policy for Gulf countries and certain African countries, which is certain African countries consider having embassies and consulates in some Gulf countries will spare them the need to have more in other countries. The same could be said about Gulf countries which consider having embassies in some African countries that are likely to lead the development process in the continent is quite sufficient, which is untrue. Each and every country from either side has its own role and importance that can be counted on to bring about these relations to the benefit of both sides.
There is a trump and supporting card for the Afro-Gulf relations issue and that is Africans born in the Holy Land during Hajj times and remained there. Some migrated from Central and West Africa following European colonization and settled in the Arabian Peninsula up to this moment. Here, we are speaking of extended generations that have become an integral part of the Arabian Peninsula, some of whom have academic and literary contributions to Gulf communities such as Chadian author Dr. Adam Yousuf who was hosted by Saudi Cultural Channel in May 2017. Hence, efforts should be exerted to benefit from such elites for they constitute the cornerstone in promoting Afro-Gulf relations and the main bridge for a prospective Gulf vision to reach a future Africa in the twenty-first century.