Africa-Asia Inter Regional

By Dr Srimal Fernando and Kirtan Bhana

30 April 2021

Regionalism has undergone several waves of change in the past century. The term ‘regional integration’ has also come to be associated with several meanings. In contrast, new regionalism approaches for African and Asian challenges could be addressed on a broader basis in a comprehensive fashion without solely focusing on specific areas of cooperation. The importance of collectively unifying strengths and designing policies that are aligned in a way that enhances the well-being of the entire region needs to be recognized.

South Asia
COVID-19 Pandemic : Global Response and Solidarity with India

The World stands in solidarity with India and is urgently preparing missions of support for the countries public health services as medical emergencies surge after a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

The disruption to everyday life, social and economic activity and behavior has led to different and innovative solutions to mitigate and overcome the obstacles posed in trying to contain and eradicate the virus.

India’s offer to manufacture the vaccines as the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines and provide and distribute them to nations around the world is an acknowledgement that in order to stop the pandemic it needs to be tackled collectively. The global response to India’s crisis is as a result of the Vaccine Maitri (Vaccine Friendship) initiative as Indian vaccine manufacturers shipped millions of doses around the World. According to the latest available data India has administered one dose to more than109 million people and more than 17 million have been fully vaccinated.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on Sri Lanka and on small island states like Seychelles, Mauritius, the Maldives and also the not so small island of Madagascar. These island countries are connected by the bounty of the Indian Ocean and are positioned ideally between Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Tourism and fisheries are the mainstay of these economies, with shipping, ship building and other marine and ecological research tasks steadily evolving.

Sri Lanka has embarked on a construction drive that aims to lay tens of thousands of kilometers of road networks to enhance connectivity. The islands of the Maldives, which lies about 1000kms to the south of Sri Lanka, welcomed 100000 visitors to its idyllic, paradise island shores. Maldives economy is largely devoted to travel and tourism and has opened its borders to global travelers.

Travelers to the Seychelles have to show a negative COVID-19 test to enter the African island nation and African Union (AU) member. Its 115 islands make it the classic destination for beach lovers and sun seekers alike.

The island of Mauritius shares a unique Afro Asian heritage with Seychelles and the nations are historically linked due the legacy of French colonialism. Mauritius has made significant progress from being a sugar producer to textile and garment manufacturing, and a leading financial services hub.

H.E. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon of Sri Lanka assumed office of the Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on 01 March 2020.

Despite experiencing a series of internal and external challenges since its formation, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has, in the past three decades, witnessed encouraging advancements. The multidimensional aspects of SAARC can also be examined through the organization’s action plan.

Since the member states launched its Agreement on South Asian Free Trade (SAFTA) in 2006 the region has witnessed many dramatic changes in trade and economic cooperation at various levels. The road map for implementation of SAFTA was both politically and economically ill adopted to fully operate within member states and scholars are beginning to question some fundamental aspects of the regional trade agreement framework.

Solving some of these challenges will unleash the potential of SAARC.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

Dr. Gatot Hari Gunawan of Indonesia succeeded Dr Nomvuyo Nokwe as the acting Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Dr. Gatot Hari Gunawan, had earlier held the position as a Director at IORA Secretariat, Mauritius since 1 February 2018.

IORA is the intra-regional body for continental integration between Asia and Africa, its model of dialogue partners reaches out to the Indo-Pacific region.

Despite the diversity of the member States of IORA, the grouping has managed to promote mutual interdependency amongst its member States. Particularly, IORA has proven to be an important platform for the security and strategic challenges of its member states.

Through the strategy of non-intrusion in the rapid dynamic setting of the region, IORA has been devoted to expanding understanding and cooperation among its 22 member nations.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

ASEAN has made notable progress with regards to policy alignments among members and intra-regional trade among Southeast Asian nations accounts for an estimated 55 percent of its total world trade. Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines are proving to be key partners in promoting cooperation and trade in the Asia-Pacific region which provides great access to over 40 percent of global trade and over 2.5 billion consumers. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have provided the foundation for greater economic integration and interconnectivity between Asian economies.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA)

Mr Wamkele Mene, a South African, is the first Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat headquartered in Accra, Ghana.

The second edition of the biennial Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) will take place in Kigali, Rwanda from 8 to 14 December 2021. It will bring continental and global buyers and sellers together on a single platform for trade, investment, tourism and finance facilitation.

The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are regional groupings of African states and were the basis for the African integration. The 8 regional bodies are Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN–SAD), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The nations on the east coast of Africa are also members of IORA, and South Africa is part of the BRICS group and the G20 countries.

The Middle East and Gulf Cooperation Council

The Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) consider the Indian Ocean as a vital waterway that has contributed to the phenomenal development of this region. The supply and demand of petroleum and gas products have been the boon for this region. These countries have created work and employment for many people from South Asia, ASEAN and Africa and have made a contribution through remittances that were earned. Launched on 1 January 2008, the GCC was formed as a common market with plans to realize a fully integrated single market between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and initiated key steps in 2014 to create a single currency.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

The idea of APEC was first publicly broached by former Prime Minister of Australia Bob Hawke during a speech in Seoul, Korea, on 31 January 1989. Ten months later, 12 Asia-Pacific economies met in Canberra, Australia, to establish APEC. The founding members were Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; New Zealand; the Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; and the United States. China joined in 1991, Mexico and Papua New Guinea followed in 1993. Chile acceded in 1994. And in 1998, Peru; Russia; and Viet Nam joined, taking the full membership to 21 and is a representation of 60 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The momentum for regional integration continues. SAARC, AfCTA, IORA, ASEAN, APEC and the RCEP indicate an appetite for holistic and broader cooperation and integration of regional blocs.

Dr. Srimal Fernando received his PhD in the area of International Affairs. He was the recipient of the prestigious O. P. Jindal Doctoral Fellowship and SAU Scholarship under the SAARC umbrella. He is also an Advisor/Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa in partnership with Diplomatic World Institute (Brussels). He has received accolades such as 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ in South Africa, (GCA) Media Award for 2016 and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) accolade. He is the author of ‘Politics, Economics and Connectivity: In Search of South Asian Union’

Kirtan Bhana founded The Diplomatic Society platform in 1997. He has received many accolades and commendations for his work. He serves on the board of the World Innovation Trophy and Wonders of Africa.