Riyadh, SPA: The Saudi-Arab-African Economic Conference kicked off today in the presence of several princess, ministers, officials in the Kingdom and Arab and African countries, leaders in finance, business and investment from the public and private sectors, trade unions, international organizations, prominent figures in academia and think tanks to discuss relations and cooperation opportunities.
In the opening address, Minister of Finance Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan said: “Today's world is undergoing profound economic transformations as we witness the acceleration of the emergence of innovative technologies, the transformation into new economic sectors, and the reimagining of global supply chains, which opens new prospects for economic cooperation and development between the Kingdom and African countries, especially due to the fact that both sides own natural resources, distinguished geographical location, and young human forces.”
Al-Jadaan stressed that the Kingdom's relation with the African continent is not governed solely by the proximity of the geographical location but by the fact that we are partners and share a common history and destiny, with the origins of trade with the African continent dating back to ancient ages, when trade in the Arabian Peninsula relied on trade routes to Africa, and the Kingdom has always been and is still an active market for African goods for centuries.
He added, “Our shared history has given us what transcends economic bonds; we have similarities in our cultures and geography, common factors among our peoples, common potential in our economies that have boosted common understanding and entrenched the close relationships among our societies. In light of the major challenges witnessed by the global economy, we believe that the African continent has a main role in dealing with these challenges.”
The minister noted that the Kingdom was one of the first countries to demand the African Union's accession to permanent membership in the G20. The Kingdom also supports introducing an additional seat for Africa on the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to enhance the voice of the African continent in international forums, where we are aware of the value of different points of view in forming international policies and we believe that the voice of Africa is important in all international arenas.
He reiterated that the Kingdom's partnership with Africa is strong and growing at all levels, where the Kingdom has always been keen on starting important partnerships with African entities with the aim of expanding relations in various sectors, such as energy, mining and agriculture, where the Kingdom and Africa are considered key trading partners and investment destinations.
In regard to developing maritime shipping lines, Al-Jadaan stated that the Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) in the Kingdom is working to further enhance ship traffic in the Red Sea and establish connections with various African ports and indicated that the Kingdom is making similar efforts with airlines and destinations. He also added that the Kingdom has recently launched a program to facilitate and expand trade in services between the Kingdom and Africa within the framework of cooperation with the World Economic Forum. Al-Jadaan elaborated that this initiative is aimed at regional integration, which represents an untapped area of growth.
With reference to development, the minister touched on the role of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and its long-standing partnership with Africa, as it played an important role in financing basic infrastructure such as roads, dams, hospitals and schools and supporting more than 400 projects.
Moreover, he said, "The conference will witness the signing of agreements between SFD and a number of African countries to implement development projects valued at more than two billion Saudi riyals. Development institutions of the Arab Coordination Group (ACG) will announce their tremendous financing programs to support sustainable development in Africa until the year 2030, stressing that the gains of these partnerships will not only benefit the Kingdom and Africa, but the entire world."
He further added, "One of the biggest challenges facing many African countries is the capacity to bear the burden of debt. We have, thankfully, come a long way in facing the African debt challenges through the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatment, which was launched during Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 in 2020. Work is still underway to extend support to other African countries; Chad and Zambia have received support in treating debts through the G20 Common Framework, and we are currently working with a group of creditors to support Ghana, Ethiopia and other countries."
As he concluded his speech, Al-Jadaan said: “Our gathering today is happening at an important stage that can open vast potentials for both sides. Let us make this economic conference an opportunity for all of us to intensify efforts and boost cooperation through discussion, constructive dialogue, sharing of ideas and establishing lasting partnerships.”