Sharm El Sheikh, 16 February 2010 - African and Arab Ministers are meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt today to agree on a Joint Action Plan (JAP) that will guide their collaboration in agriculture and food security. The initial work on the JAP had been done by experts from the two regions who met from 14-15 February at the same venue.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the Joint Afro Arab Ministerial Meeting on Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Amin Abaza, Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation observed that it is now imperative for the African Union (AU) and the League of Arab States (LAS) to increase their cooperation.
Agriculture represents the pivot for the economies, he said and in both regions, there is an abundance of land, resources, and knowledge in various areas. Yet, he commented, the caloric intake in the regions is below the international level. He therefore urged for greater cooperation to overcome challenges and increase food security.
Mr. Abaza said the objectives of the Ministerial meeting included; creating a partnership to promote food security; and seeking ways to achieve best use of land resources through cooperation. He went on to encourage the two regions to have private sector driven projects, to attract investors to work with the private sector, to cooperate in the management of water; promote small holder farmers; build human and financial capacity; and to exchange experiences. The technological gap, he said, also impedes optimum yield from agricultural activities.
“So we need to improve technology transfer”, he added. In his conclusion, the Minister said that reviving solidarity between the AU and the Arab world will enable the two regions to achieve prosperity for their people.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner underscored the vitality of the relationship between the AU and the League of Arab States.
“We are bound by our geographic proximity and historical, linguistic, religious and cultural ties, and are also living witnesses to an era when there is ever increasing interactions between our two peoples’, she said.
Afro Arab cooperation has, since the historic First Afro-Arab Summit which was held in Cairo, Egypt in 1977, reflected itself in, for example, the organisation of the Afro- Arab trade fairs and business weeks, and the establishment of the joint institute in Mali for cultural exchanges and research in the two regions.
“The Summit will thus come, not as the beginning of a journey, but as reflective impetus for our continued journey and actions in areas of common concern”, the Commissioner added. She saluted the Ministers’ efforts and support for Africa’s agricultural blueprint – the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). In concluding, Commissioner Joiner recalled that the AU Chairperson, Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika, is strongly committed to taking urgent steps to improve Africa’s food security and to ensure that, within five years, no child in Africa would die of hunger or starvation.
Ambassador Ahmed Benheli, the Deputy Secretary General of the League of Arab States said the Ministerial meeting symbolizes political will and a common strategic direction of the two regions. He observed that the food bill for developing countries is too high, noting that expenditure on food imports has doubled in recent years. “We therefore need to work together and provide political will so as to achieve food security for the two regions”.
During the opening session, the Ministers also endorsed their bureau as such: Chair-Egypt; 1st Vice Chair-Niger: 2nd Vice Chair-Algeria; Rapporteur-Malawi and Vice Rapporteur-Syria.
The 1st Joint Ministerial Meeting on Agricultural Development and Food Security will, in its one day session, consider the JAP between the AU and the LAS, as well as adopt its decisions and resolutions. The JAP will give new impetus to Afro-Arab Cooperation by shifting it from fragmented small activities to large scale undertakings that will have a meaningful impact on the continent’s people. It will also help address the challenges of food insecurity in the two regions and contribute to the overall economic development efforts of African and Arab countries.
Source: African Union Commission