The Emirates’ Orientation Towards Africa

  • 4 May 2009

His Highness Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Aal Nahyan’s comprehensive and important visit to Africa reflects the vitality and dynamism of UAE foreign policy and the activism, effectiveness, and capabilities that characterize its diplomatic work in many areas.

In addition to the fact that the Emirates’ orientation toward Africa is part of the state’s openness on the world, developed and developing, and its attempts to strengthen relations with all countries, there are many important considerations that give it a special character. First, this orientation reflects UAE’s awareness of Africa’s political and economic importance and the necessity of establishing and developing relations with it in all respects. This is what HH Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahyan clearly expressed last February when he stressed the importance of strengthening the strategic partnership between the Gulf and Africa and that the UAE can play a major role in this. Second, developing relations with African countries is an important political boost for the UAE and its regional and international issues. The country’s attempt to host the headquarters of the “International Renewable Energy Agency” could be helped by Africa’s support on this issue.

Third, Africa’s great development strides over the past years makes it attractive economically and politically. Many regional and international powers took an interest in it and worked with it on different levels. The UAE is thus working on being part of these developments and benefiting from them. Fourth, there are strong historic, geographic, and economic foundations for active relations between UAE and Africa as there is a geographic closeness and rich historic and cultural relations between Arabs and Africans. There also is a long history of African support for Arab causes, especially the Palestinian cause, and Arab support for African political and development causes. Numbers show that total trade between the UAE and Africa increased by 120% in two years and reached $8.4 billion in 2008. Fifth, UAE is among the countries supporting development in the black continent, and the role of the “Abu Dhabi Development Fund” in supporting many development projects in many African countries with grants estimated in millions of dollars is obvious. Additionally, the UAE over the past few years has increased its investments in Africa and opened commercial flights to many cities on the west and east of the continent.

The great African welcome received by HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan highlights the positive reservoir the UAE has in Africa and the interest its different countries have in strengthening their relations with it at all levels. This represents a driving force toward better and deeper relations between both sides in the future.