- Title: BAHRAIN: Crans Montana Forum promotes GCC-Africa economic cooperation in Bahrain
- Date: 4th December 2008
- Summary: WIDE OF CONFERENCE HALL AUDIENCE/ SPEAKER AT PODIUM VARIOUS OF AUDIENCE SHEIKHA LUBNA KHALID SULTAN AL QASIMI LISTENING CONFERENCE HALL
- Embargoed: 19th December 2008 12:00
- Location: Bahrain
- Country: Bahrain
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA4TM9X892A9P5XLO9QH3IFMX9B
- Story Text: The annual "Crans Montana Forum" is held in Manama, Bahrain from December 1 to 3 to enhance economic cooperation between African countries and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Manama is hosting the Crans Montana Forum's "Strengthening the GCC-Africa Cooperation" conference, which presents a platform for policy-makers, financial players and businessmen from Africa and the Gulf region to discuss various economic issues.
The high profile three-day conference which began on Monday (December 1) was attended by the likes of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and UAE Minister for Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi.
Discussions centred on topics such as the implementation of trade agreements, the role of international organisations, the importance of sovereign wealth funds and sectors of interest for investment.
"In this forum, South-South issues and GCC-Africa issues have been discussed. In this respect, the GCC possesses a significant amount of liquidity; whereas Africa can offer a profitable and cheap labour force and lots of resources," said Abou Bakr Sadiq, a Mauritanian delegate.
Some GCC officials highlighted the importance of Africa's resources, especially in the agriculture, mineral and tourism sectors.
"African-GCC relations are important, especially since Black Africa is endowed with many things which have not yet been revealed to the world. There are tourist destinations, beautiful natural landscapes and undiscovered areas in many African countries such as South Africa, the Ivory Coast and Kenya. The GCC itself is well-equipped for tourism, with its five star hotels, its services sector, its environment, its cheap customs-free markets. All of these are factors that attract Africans to the GCC. So this forum on GCC-Africa relations is an initiative to increase this cooperation," economic analyst Abdul Fattouh Tuqan told Reuters.
Islamic banking, a financial model that complies with Sharia law, proved an important issue during the meetings. The sector has enjoyed considerable expansion in the Middle East over the past decade, prompting the interest of various African nations.
Sharia-compliant investment in Africa is also on the rise, a trend experts forecast will continue despite the global financial crisis.
"We are monitoring the crisis. Every bank and financial institution is defining its position based on its (financial) situation. We have decided in the Trade Financing Establishment to press on with the objective of raising amounts reaching 2.5 billion U.S. dollars this year in spite of the crisis," said Walid al-Wuheib, Executive Director of the National Islamic Association for Trade Financing.
The forum regarded its discussion on sovereign wealth funds as crucial, yet it also focused on international and regional institutions.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 33-year-old body promoting the economic integration of 15 West African states, was also represented at the conference. ECOWAS delegates outlined its Project Preparation and Development Unit (PPDU) for regional infrastructure.
"In this forum, we expect to present two major projects in which the Gulf countries can invest. We are creating a new facility which we call PPDU in the sub-region for facilitating the private sector to come into the investment in the regional infrastructure projects. Also, we have a railway interconnection project which is ready and in which Gulf countries can invest to contribute to the integration of the community in West Africa," said ECOWAS infrastructure commissioner Komla Kaje.
The Crans Montana Forum was established in 1986 with support from the Swiss government. The Monaco-based international organisation produces conferences and events around the world in order to promote international cooperation, global growth, equity and security.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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