Building bridges between Africa and Spain, weaving strong ties. This is the main objective set by One Africa Forums, organiser of the first Africa-Spain Cooperation Summit, according to its president, Hassan M. Alaoui, during the presentation of this meeting which will take place over three days at the Eurostar Tower.
Alaoui, after thanking the Spanish representatives and the African delegations from more than 20 countries, explained that the platform he presides over is a space for open dialogue dedicated to African countries that allows the private and public sectors to exchange experiences, where African governments have learned from each other in order to favour integration.
After organising 265 conferences of this nature in which strategic issues such as banking, the economy, digitalisation... have been addressed, Alaoui highlighted the importance of this first Summit in Spain, a country that "contributed in the 1990s to the development of South America and that could now be replicated in Africa".
The president of One Africa Forums highlighted four reasons why Spain should support the African continent: Spain's natural extension is Africa; Africa wants to diversify its horizons beyond its historical partners; Spain is present in Morocco with more than a thousand companies; Spain's experience in sectors that are essential for Africa.
"We want to fill the gap that exists between Spain and Africa," Alaoui stressed, with the aim of creating a bridge that promotes collaboration with the south and the development of Africa.
Before the opening session, the Gabonese journalist Naike Mba Ndong and the CEO of JNG Expeert, Jean Noël Georges, held a brief dialogue in which they spoke about the disparity of the 54 African countries, some problems such as certain instability or financial risks, but mainly about the great challenges such as digitalisation or infrastructures.
The inaugural session, presented by the journalist and director of Atalayar entre dos orillas, Javier Fernández Arribas, began via video, with the words from China of Miguel Ángel Moratinos, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, who spoke of the relations between Spain and Africa and Europe and Africa, "a new pact must be made between Africans and Europeans, and Spain must play an important role in this task", he assured.
Moratinos also stressed that, although we are looking at the war in Ukraine, we must not forget the consequences of this war, which are also felt on the African continent, and he recalled that we are in a global world where new actors such as Africa are demanding a different role, a new protagonist role in the new international order. "Africa must be part of our new geopolitical design," said Moratinos, who drew attention to the vertical Europe, Mediterranean, Africa and its passage through Gibraltar. "In the immediate future, the world will look to the relationship between Morocco and Spain as the nerve centre, and this is the historic mission that corresponds to us", he concluded.
Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner of the African Union of Ethiopia, then spoke, stressing that the Union is working for a united, prosperous continent and for the well-being of its peoples. In this regard, she stressed that Africa is the continent that is growing the fastest demographically, but also in terms of urbanisation and digitalisation, and how the world will depend on the continent in terms of energy, "in 2040 we will have the largest energy market in the world", she said.
He also alluded to the continent's great achievements, the improvement in the governance of its countries, the cooperation and solidarity demonstrated, and regretted that the good news does not make headlines and that there are still many stereotypes that do not correspond to the African reality. Abou-Zeud concluded by alluding to the importance of renewing alliances with countries such as Spain, "with which Africa has a long history".
For his part, Bruno Nabagné Kone, Ivory Coast's Minister of Housing and Urban Planning, after praising the work of One Africa Forums and its president for allowing Africans to talk about the issues that concern them, defended the fact that "we must look at Africa as a place of opportunities". The minister highlighted the possibilities that are opening up on the continent in many sectors such as mining, agriculture and infrastructures, the advantage of having a young population, the positive growth that is being experienced and the significant improvement in the governance of the countries. "We must insist on the positive vision of Africa as opposed to the negative aspects," said the minister, who insisted on the great potential of the African continent and expressed his hope that at the end of this summit, many people will be interested in investing in his country and in other African countries.
Lionel Zinsou, former Prime Minister of Benin, also spoke at the opening session. He began by stressing that the problem is that "we do not know each other", hence the importance of establishing places where we can get to know each other, and gave as an example his country, Benin, which many people do not know where it is despite having 700 km of common border with Nigeria.
Zinsou assured that the first African country of exchange with Spain is not Morocco, but South Africa, which is the 31st partner, and insisted on the need to work harder to tell that for both Portugal and Spain there are more active people in South Africa than in China. In addition, he stressed that the main wealth they have is the work of the people, the young people who are active.
As a second important aspect, the former Prime Minister stressed "having consideration for each other". For him, relations between Spain and Africa should be based on an egalitarian exchange, "not of aid or assistance", of the flow of capital, knowledge, green hydrogen as opposed to refined products... And, with a certain irony, he recalled the advantage that Spain has not colonised them too much, "because there is a view of colonisation that forced people to consider them as submissive, inferior, and there is very little of this in the relationship with Spain".
He concluded by calling for the importance of the private sector and for Spanish companies to visit Africa, "further away from Morocco and a little above South Africa, and for them to get to know us through our companies as well".
Rita Da Costa, Senior Advisor and Head of Unit at the OECD Development Centre of France, closed the round of speeches by speaking about the opportunities and financial flows that do not reach Africa, and how one of the problems they encounter is the payment of debts or the cost of capital for energy in Africa, "five to ten times higher than in the United States".
Finally, she said she was in favour of Spain taking advantage of its presidency of the European Union to establish platforms and links for economic and social transition, "to understand these links of transition and to have a more integrating approach".
When asked by the moderator, Javier Fernández Arribas, what they would say to Spanish businesspeople to encourage them to invest in Africa, the speakers agreed in highlighting the opportunities that Africa offers and the great benefits that can be obtained. "Come to Africa, because we are going to be a solution for you," said Lionel Zinsou.