East African leaders are cashing in on the Saudi Arabia-East African Forum underway in Ethiopia to woo the over 50 key investors as well as finance, agriculture and infrastructure authorities from the oil-rich Kingdom attending the forum.
Event organizers have said the 14-17 Nov. forum presents an unprecedented opportunity for partnership between the Kingdom and the region.
The Forum, financed and organized by the Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohamm ad Hussien Ali Al-Amoudi “owner of a company engaged almost in every sector of
Ethiopia’s economy with the largest investment in the country “ is being attended by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, as well as his counterparts from Djibouti and Somalia - Ismael Omar Guelleh and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed respectively.
Others are Bernard Makuza, Prime Minister of Rwanda; Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya; Henry Oryem Okelle, Uganda’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minster and Emanuel Ole Naiko, Director General of Tanzania’s Investment Centre.
These leaders are keen to access the huge and unutilized financial resources in the oil-rich Kingdom in the Arabian Peninsula, as much as the Kingdom is interested in the African nations’ vast agricultural resources.
Speaking for Ethiopia, Meles said his country was endowed with suitable climatic and geographical resources for agriculture, in addition to a good investment policy.
The Somali President, on his part, urged Saudi Arabia to invest in his troubled nation and appealed for help from the Kingdom in his battle against hard line insurgents.
“Somalia has never been short of resources. I urge all of you to consider taking advantage of Somalia’s long coastline, as well as its livestock resources which amount to 55 million (heads),” he said.
In addition to food production, Rwanda and Kenya, on their part, insisted that the Saudi investors should be involved in diverse sectors, including hotel and tourism, energy, value addition in agriculture, transportation “mainly rail links” and communications.
Following the recent global food crisis, marked by high prices, Saudi’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has come up with a strategic scheme of developing huge mechanized farms in foreign countries.
The Kingdom said the scheme, tagged King Abdullah’s Initiative, was meant not only to help itself develop reliable sources for food supply to its people, but also help countries that provide land to host its mega farms to produce more to feed their own people, export and create more job opportunities.
‘Saudi Arabia is committed to combating hunger, to provide support (to) the ho st country (to) generate exports,’ Abdullah Bin Ahmed Zainal Ali Reza, Saudi’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said Sunday at the opening of the Forum in Addis Ababa. ‘We are not here to impose our needs above the needs of local populations.’
Trade volume between Saudi and East African countries has reached about $3 billion and the Arab state want to further raise the bar ‘We need to work together to increase the volume of trade by reducing obstacles, enhance the ability of banks for trade finance, the creation of safe and secure maritime transport routes between the Kingdom and East Africa,’ Ali Reza said.