Nov16, 2009(ADDIS ABABA) – The Saudi East African forum, a new initiative that offers unique opportunity for trade, investment and to promote and exhibit products and services between Saudi Arabia and the East African countries winded up today in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
In the joint forum, seven East African countries, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Rwanda represent their head of states while the kingdom sent four of its ministers, government representatives, bankers and entrepreneurs.
Speaking at the opening of the forum yesterday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who lauded the initiative said that historic ties of the two sides needs to further be consolidated to a long-term economic and investment bonds.
Saudi Arabia is one of world’s biggest food importers. It has laid its eyes in the East African region not only because of it’s easily access able geographical location but also because the region offers rich fertile agricultural land, cheap labor and favorable agricultural climate, among others.
The Ethiopian prime minister at the occasion explained availability of market, suitable climate condition and good investment policy in his country. He called on Saudis to invest in Ethiopia and in the region as a whole further reassuring his government’s commitment to provide every support to willing investors.
Saudi Arabia commerce and industry minister to his part said that Saudis are keen to boost economic partnership with countries of the region.
“Saudi Arabia is committed to combating hunger, to provide support for the host country but also to generate exports. We are not to impose our needs above the needs of local population” Minister Abdullah Bin Ahmed Zainal Ali reza said.
“We will engage in various developmental activities in the continent in general and in the east African region in particular for the reason of geographical ties to Saudi” He added.
The seven east African representatives to their side have assured Saudi officials their readiness to boost all rounded ties with the Arab nation further guarantying that their doors are open to Saudi investors.
The new initiative is believed to open a new era in promoting partnership and cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the sub continent.
According to organizers in Addis Ababa, the forum will be backed by a Saudi exhibition in which more than 50 leading companies will showcase their products and know-how and network with officials and investors from East African countries.
“The groundbreaking gathering is a watershed in Saudi-East African relations and a stepping stone toward an economic alliance that will combine the huge natural resources and economic potentials of these countries with the vast financial resources and vast experience of economic development of Saudi Arabia.” Arab news quoted an official from Saudi ministry of commerce as saying.
The East African nations have a market base of 130 million consumers. The Kingdom is also a member of the G20 and is able, through its standing as a world economic power, to assist East African nations by channeling substantive support and assistance to these countries and their future economic planning, the official added.
Saudi Arabia goes at the right time to present the five East African nations with an ideal partner as it is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East as well as one of the largest food importers in the region. Saudi Arabia is also a large market with a GDP of $400 billion.