‘New’ Egypt is ‘pro Africa’

2011-06-23 14:47

Post-revolution Egypt is to change course from political and economic competition with South Africa to cooperation, the Egyptian prime minister, Essam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf told City Press in an exclusive interview.

Speaking after last weekend’s ground-breaking summit of 26 north, east and southern African leaders in Sandton to establish the largest free trade block on the continent, Sharaf said his country in the north and South Africa should form the “pillars” of the new initiative.

“Coming here and getting involved in Africa summits and activities fits exactly into our strategies to strengthen our relationships with Africa. Anything aiming at economic integration is very important to us.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community and the Southern African Development Community represent more than half of Africa, the GDP is $1 trillion. The only problem is the interrelation is still not at the required level.”

He declared the new Egypt to be “pro Africa”.

“What we have here is a plan and a schedule for three interrelated activities; an integrated market, infrastructure and industrial development. These three components are not parallel; they are interrelated because you cannot have industrial development without power. You cannot have interrelated markets without good transport infrastructure.

There is very good intention to have that done in short and appropriate timing within three years and to have the free trade area operational.”

Sharaf said he, President Jacob Zuma and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda agreed that the establishment of the free trade block was viable in three years and not in the five years as originally proposed.

“We feel this should be done as fast as possible. I told Museveni it was a great dream that needs great effort bring about great benefit. Yes it is difficult, but if we work hard it can be done.”

Egypt was ready to intensify its relations with Africa, Sharaf said.

With respect to the ties between South Africa and Egypt he said both countries agreed that they wanted “to move from competition to cooperation and to complementing each other. You can create these two pillars and we can work together to connect what is between us. We have a lot of mutual benefits and interests between us and we can capitalise on that.”

He admitted that during the Mubarak era the relationship between South Africa and Egypt was “based on economic and sometimes political competition. We are now moving in another direction toward economic integration and partnership we can because there is lot of things we can do together”.

With regard to the current political situation in Egypt, he said his country was on track towards a new dispensation by early 2012.

“By late September there will be parliamentary elections. After that there will be a new constitution. By early next year or late this year there will be the presidential elections.”

He said the constitution-making process was advancing and will be vetted by the newly elected parliament before the presidential elections.

On Libya Sharaf was hopeful that as a solution to the conflict would be reached “soon”. He was clearly concerned about the more than 1 million Egyptians still living in Libya amid the raging conflict there.

“Egypt, after its own revolution, respects the right of people to manage their affairs in their countries. We hope that things will be settled as soon as possible,” said Sharaf.

– Africa Desk.

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