02 Jul The Upcoming Saudi-African Summit (a Future Reading)
The Saudi capital, Riyadh, is preparing to convene a joint Saudi-African summit by next November; however, I think that this summit will face several obstacles. On the light of the current Gulf crisis, this summit could witness a buy-in of the positions of some African countries normally viewed as influential African powers, such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa, besides certain African countries that enjoy vital strategic location and have a strong presence in the African scene like Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Though, Riyadh is unlikely to succeed in this for a host of factors, most significant of which are:
The African Union being unconvinced of the real causes behind the Gulf crisis, its insistence that it’s an internal Gulf affair and its announcement that it supports the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the dispute, relying on the international position.
The recent Senegalese ambassador’s return to Doha was a message to all African countries that remained neutral to avoid the embarrassment suffered by Dakar. In addition, there is the prominent Turkish role in Africa which supported and will continue to support Qatari interests in the continent and which will also work to back neutral African countries’ standpoint and persuade them to maintain their situation.
Future Prospects for the upcoming Saudi-African Summit
– In the light of transitions in the balance of regional power, Riyadh is expected to announce a joint Saudi-African project at the upcoming summit which allows Riyadh to achieve more economic and political gains in Africa, and enables African countries to overcome the biggest challenge encumbering development and start implementation of the future project of infrastructure improvement with an annual cost of 93 billion dollars.
– It is likely that summit will witness the inauguration of a Saudi-African center or institute for organizing workshops on how Saudi-African relations can be boosted. This will no doubt be accompanied by signing economic and investment contracts besides collaboration regarding certain security and intelligence issues.
– After the lifting of the economic sanctions on Sudan with the help of Saudi Arabia and Khartoum’s participation in the Storm of Resolve Operation, it is likely that Saudi and Sudanese ports on the Red Sea will witness economic and security cooperation, and the number of Sudanese soldiers stationed in southern Arabia will double.
– Pressure on Somalia will continue being the weakest link in the Horn of Africa in order to discourage it from its neutral position, a role most likely be undertaken by Ethiopia. However, the Ethiopian domestic front seems more coherent than its Somali counterpart which undergoes “partial” public pressure led by some Somali political figures in the semi-autonomous Somali regions like Puntland and Somaliland who reject the principle of neutrality declared by the Somali central government.
– Seeking to end disputes in the Gulf region and ensuring cooperation on pioneer Gulf projects in Africa.
– Supporting the operations of the Muslim World League throughout the African continent, working to establish joint Saudi-African universities and cultural centers, and strengthening Islamic banking system in Africa, a system which Saudi Arabia implemented with excellence and which proved successful in a number of African capitals.
– Trying to address African elite through the African media, a thing that will pave the way for the initiation of a Gulf-African cultural channel sponsored by the ministries of culture and information of both sides.
– Emphasizing the need to combat terrorist organizations in Africa, strengthening joint efforts to prevent arms from reaching them, and working to support IGAD and ECOWAS in their efforts to promote African peace and security.
– Finally, I would like to clearly state that involving African countries and peoples in the complications of the Gulf crisis will negatively affect present and future Afro-Gulf relations. Therefore, the continuity of the Gulf crisis is not in favor of either Gulf region or the Afro-Gulf relations we are looking forward to strengthen. The Arabian Gulf countries as a whole should learn that most African countries won’t risk their future and political position for the sake of disputes that are far from the credibility of the African perspective.