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Meeting of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Africa and the Arab world 25th- 27th October 2008 Cape Town, South Africa

Under the auspices of the Association of Senates, Shoora and Equivalent Councils in Africa and the Arab world (ASSECAA)

Sponsors:

 i) Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa

ii) Association of Yemen Bankers

 

Venue – The South African Parliament, Cape Town

Communique

1.0  Present

Delegates from the following countries attended the meeting:

i)                   Republic of Yemen

ii)                 Federal Republic of Nigeria

iii)               Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

iv)              Kingdom of Bahrain

v)                Islamic Republic of Mauritania

vi)              Kingdom of Morocco

vii)            Republic of Guinea

viii)          Republic of Gabon

ix)              Jamahiriya of Libya

x)                Republic of South Africa

xi)              Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

 

 

2.0  Observers

i)                   The League of Arab States

ii)                 Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa

3.0  Special Guests

i)                   US Export Promotion Council

ii)                 UK Trade Promotion Council

4.0  Opening Session

    Honourable M.J Mahlangu, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, South Africa chaired the opening session and declared the meeting open on behalf of the President of the Republic of South Africa. In the session, the following speeches were delivered:

a) The Secretary-General of ASSECAA, Mr. Livinus I. Osuji delivered the welcome address in which he highlighted the need for Africa and the Arab countries  to found a strong channel of economic cooperation to enable them to collectively withstand the harsh realities of globalisation. 

He outlined that an expanded market for the countries of the two regions will create room for economies of scale, improved production and demand levels and consequently create more employment and reduce poverty in the region.

b) H.E Mr. Abdullah Hussein Al-Bar, Deputy Speaker of Yemen Shoora Council and head of Yemeni delegation delivered the speech of H.E Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, Speaker of Shoora Council of Yemen and Chairman of ASSECAA. Mr. Al-Bar expressed deep thanks to the Chairperson and members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) the government and people of South Africa for hosting the meeting in this great African country.

He thanked the representatives of Arab and African parliaments, as well as the representatives of Arab and African Chambers of commerce and industry, who participated in this meeting. He pointed out that ASSECAA was trying to create avenues to reach the most important issues of Afro-Arab cooperation. 

This first meeting for chambers of commerce and industry in Africa and Arab states to be held here will enable us all to view this great country and the excellent examples, which will also provide strength to our diverse economies in our countries so as to establish suitable environment for unlimited cooperation and integration. He also indicated that economic development in Yemen came as a priority for the state and the government.  It had also contributed to the essential changes in democracy in Yemen. He further indicated that there are great investment opportunities in Yemen.

Regarding the current international financial crisis, he asserted that our countries will be affected by this crisis in addition to the high increase in food prices as well as the sharp decrease in oil prices. All these factors will affect our economies and may lead to serious repercussions unless we combine the efforts of our countries to counter this crisis with the aim of reducing its negatives, while taking lessons that will help us in the future.

He highlighted that there is limited trade exchange between ASSECAA’s members.  He hoped that the meeting will provide an opportunity for mutual cooperation between the countries of the two regions. He urged ASSECAA to hold these business meetings periodically.

c)  H.E Hon. M.J Mahlangu, MP, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces of South Africa in his speech emphasized the need for co-operation among the different role players towards the advancement of the agenda of developing countries and that it was critical to create space for the discussion of issues in order to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. He said business and civil society had a huge role to play as partners in building democracy as they possess some invaluable experiences which serve as important feedback mechanism when considering laws and policies.

He said one of the challenges, when it comes to the promotion of co-operation among different countries, was that most states did not have clear economic policies that are conducive to integration and co-operation. As a result, he said, Africa was looking at the issue of the harmonisation of laws, which must take national peculiarities into account towards achieving simpler and better relations among different countries.

He said political and socio-economic cooperation was important in achieving harmony among the different states, as a requirement for ensuring development and economic freedom. And that both business and civil society have a keen interest in the resolution of these issues.

d) H.E Mr. Mohammed H. Radhi, member of the Shoora Council of Bahrain and head of delegation, addressed the meeting, indicating the importance of this conference being held under delicate global financial conditions. He pointed out that this financial crisis, which affected the developed countries, will make  developing countries suffer a lot and many will be on the verge of collapse or bankruptcy.  In addition, he indicated that the link between oil prices and exchange rates in the global markets has affected severely the budgets of many developing countries and may affect many essential development projects.  Hence, it is obvious that the crisis in the world may not affect the developed countries, but any crisis initiated there has deep negative effects on our economies. 

This will indicate an alarm to us to act swiftly and violently to confront such crisis.  In this regard, our countries are in a dire need of legislation and regulation to protect themselves from shocks and sudden crisis. He emphasized twelve points which will enable Arab and African countries to take the required measurements.

Also, he praised the call by his highness the prime minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa in marking the world day to combat poverty.  On Friday October 17, 2008, Sheikh Al-Khalifa appealed to the international community to identify threats and challenges facing poor countries due to the financial crisis afflicting the world nowadays.  The Prime Minister also called on the international community and the rich countries of the world to give a helping hand to the poor countries to overcome these financial crises.

5.0  Papers presented

The following papers were presented:

    i) Role of BADEA in enhancing economic cooperation between Africa and Arab world

ii)  Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities

iii)   Regional Integration and Cooperation: Challenges and    Opportunities

  iv) Business Challenges for Developing Countries in Africa and the Arab world.

 

6.0     Committee deliberations

Committee one considered the following issues:

a)  Tariff regimes

b)  Local products

c) Availability of mineral resources

d) Business laws and regulations

e) Indigenisation, privatisation and nationalisation of business

    activities

 

Committee two considered the following issues:

a)    Scheduled trade exhibitions

b)    Workshops for the creation of awareness on economic developments in the region and the world at large

c)    Exchange of business visits

d)    Date and place of next meeting

 

Committee three considered the following issues:

a)    Process of funding for the next conference

b)    Investment opportunities in the region

c)    Process of cooperation investment

d)    Resource availability in the region

6.1  Observations

In the light of the papers presented and the deliberation at the Committees, the meeting observed that:

a.    It was necessary to restore peace and security and political stability in the Arab and African countries as a pre-requisite for economic, social and political development in the two regions.

b.    Peace and security is necessary for free trade and flow of investments between African and Arab countries.

c.     WTO and the Doha negotiations seem to have reached deadlocks. Accordingly, the countries of Arab and Africa should seek to enhance regional cooperation and integration 

d.    In view of the international financial crisis, which has raised new challenges facing the countries of the world, there is a need for the Arab and African countries to join forces to increase cooperative information flow so as to harmonise stands at international dialogues

e.    The regions of African and Arab world need to establish structures that will enable them to decrease the negative effects of recent international crisis on food and finances.

f.       The recent international financial crisis will lead to a shifting paradigm which can affect developing countries adversely.  Therefore African and Arab countries through joint efforts at the regional level should participate effectively within the international community and create measures for new international financial system to prevent adverse effects of such crisis on the economic development of the two regions.

g.    African and Arab world should take cognizance of the mobility of foreign direct investment which usually seeks conducive environment.

h.     The main response to the negative effects of globalisation is to emplace policies needed to assist national businesses to enhance their competitiveness at the regional and international levels.

i.        Africa and Arab countries need to intensify joint research for the reformation of legal framework to enhance regional integration.

j.        Regional integration exists in the Arab and African regions in these  forms:

a.    Free trade area

b.    Customs union

c.     Common market

d.    Monetary Union

Accordingly, the African and Arab countries should seek out the best process for the joint operations of these institutions in order to reach common regional agreements

 k. African and Arab countries need to develop their businesses and service sectors so as to attract foreign investment.

7.0 Recommendations:

i.                    The meeting accordingly recommended that this meeting is the first meeting in the chain of dialogues that will culminate in the eventual establishment of a common Afro-Arab institution to mediate economic cooperation between the two regions.

ii.                  The countries of Africa and Arab world should encourage the participation of their national chambers of commerce in the formulation of economic policies.

iii.                The countries of Africa and Arab world should activate and reactivate agreements concerning regional cooperation and trade.

iv.               The Arab and Africa countries should work to enhance bilateral or regional communication, meetings and trainings concerning trade, investment and business promotion.

v.                 The Arab and African countries should endeavour to internalise the transformation of technology.

vi.               There is need to support investments between the two regions. In this regard, institutions which guarantee investment and provide funding should be encouraged to meet periodically so as to ensure effective cooperation.

vii.             The next meeting should take place in the Jamahiriya Libya in accordance with invitation from the representative of Libya.  The details of the date should be worked out by the Secretariat of ASSECAA and the authorities in Libya.

General Secretariat

ASSECAA

26 October, 2008