On May 18, 2012, ICPE hosted the international meeting ¬ĽAfrica Day¬ę whose aim was to boost Slovenia's cooperation with African countries and which was organized under the patronage of Dr. Danilo T√ľrk, the President of the Republic of Slovenia. The conference was organized by the Club of Former Slovenian Ambassadors in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Forum and the International Center for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE).
The event, which marked the 49th anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and the 10th anniversary of its transformation and renaming into African Union, was attended by Karl Erjavec, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, by a number of African countries' ambassadors in Slovenia, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia Samo Hribar Milińć, Ajay Kumar Bramdeo, African Union Ambassador to the EU, BoŇĺo Cerar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, by Anton Stres, Ljubljana Archbishop and by Peter Tos, ¬†President of the Club of Former Slovenian Ambassadors who delivered the welcome address.
In his speech the Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec described the achievements of the African continent in the political and economic sphere by underlying that Africa has been a success story in the past decade, six out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world being located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The interest of the Republic of Slovenia in the African continent has been increasing and Slovenia‚Äôs purpose is ‚Äúto develop and enhance the political and economic cooperation with African countries on the basis of equal partnership, mutual respect and solidarity, taking into account the valuable ties and experiences dating back to the fruitful cooperation within the Non-Aligned Movement‚ÄĚ. The minister stressed the fact that economic diplomacy is a priority of Slovenia‚Äôs foreign policy whose goal is also a more effective and systematic consolidation of the Slovenian economy in individual African markets.
Dr. Danilo T√ľrk, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, stated that Slovenia should connect to African and other countries to a larger extent and in this endeavor we should also understand the world which is why Slovenia should do more to understand the African continent especially in so far as its diversity, integration and unification are concerned. The President drew attention to Slovenia‚Äôs economic interests in African countries which it should pursue to a greater degree.
The idea of devoting greater attention to increase cooperation with Africa was also mentioned by the president of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce Samo Hribar Milińć who added that in spite of the fact that Slovenia is an exporting economy only one percent of the foreign exchange is realized with African countries and that this exchange in unfortunately limited to Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.
After Slovenia's independence Slovenia concentrated its efforts to providing African countries humanitarian aid as Dr. BoŇĺo Cerar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted however, with Slovenia's accession to the EU it also became a donor for development aid through the EU budget, European Development Fund and bilateral agreements.
The question of humanitarian aid was further discussed by Dr. Anton Stres, Ljubljana Archbishop, Slovenian missionaries being present in thirteen countries on the African continent. The Slovenian Catholic Church delivers aid to Africa in three main areas, namely in education, health and social care and economic development.
The second part of the conference consisted of a panel discussion in which the ambassadors of African countries accredited to the Republic of Slovenia tackled the collaboration of their countries with Slovenia and Europe. The panellists were H.E. Anita Stokes-Hayford (Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana), H.E. Maria De Jesus Veiga Miranda Mascarenhas (Ambassador of the Republic of Cape Verde), H.E. Charles Azubuike Ononye (Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), H.E. Mohamed Samir Koubaa (Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia), H.E. Mahmoud Hassan Elamin (Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan) and H.E. Loun√©s Magramane (Ambassador of the People‚Äôs Democratic Republic of Algeria). The discussion was moderated by H. E. Heba Sedhom, Ambassador of the Republic of Egypt to Slovenia.
H.E. Heba Sedhom (Egypt) started by recalling the successful cooperation between Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned Movement countries and reiterated the need that those efforts should be continued by sending the strong message to Slovenia and Europe regarding the natural resources Africa has to offer.
During the discussion the main areas of potential cooperation between African countries and Slovenia were identified by H.E. Mahmoud Hassan Elamin (Sudan) as being in the field of agriculture and other related products, in the energy sector, chiefly in the field of renewable energy, in tourism, infrastructure and mining. The Ambassador also noted the determination of Sudan to maintain peace.
H.E. Mohamed Samir Koubaa (Tunisia) stressed the need to focus on the political, economic and social assessment to identify what is doable and implementable for enhancing African countries cooperation with Slovenia and this includes the transparency of the decision-making process especially given the new era of democratization the African countries enter.
Democratization, its challenges and the crucial significance of dialogue were highlighted by H.E. Maria De Jesus Veiga Miranda Mascarenhas (Cape Verde) together with the relevance of exchanges in the field of education as well as in economy which are oftentimes hindered by consular difficulties as H.E. Loun√©s Magramane (Algeria) pointed out. He added that economic relations could be significantly improved by a more efficient visa regime which would offer certain facilities to businessmen and by an increased presence of Slovenian businessmen at various economic fairs as some of the best opportunities for facilitating contacts and signing contracts.
H.E. Anita Stokes-Hayford (Ghana) concentrated on the importance the further economic and political cooperation play in the strive towards integration and on the matter of independence which becomes meaningless unless linked to the liberation of Africa.
Africa‚Äôs vast resources in the field of crude oil and gas represent one of the possible gates for foreign investors. Nonetheless, natural resources alone are not enough for attracting investors in the absence of certain incentives offered to investors (for instance tax incentives, etc.) as H.E. Charles Azubuike Ononye (Nigeria) remarked.
The meeting was closed by the ICPE Acting Director General, Janez Podobnik, who emphasized the importance of the meeting which was a first in the history of Slovenian-African relations. The Director General noted that among ICPE's current member-states there are several African countries and that ICPE serves as a good platform to boost future cooperation between Slovenia and the African continent.
Please also kindly find attached the article published in Slovenian media (only in Slovenian language):