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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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Millions of US $ 19,131     71
     
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Update No: 084 - (29/11/10)

African Affairs and ‘Winning’ African Allegiance
The EU is trying to pursue better relations and more economic opportunities in Africa, where China, chased by the significant newcomers to the world stage, Brazil and India, have been exploring economic opportunities, at the EU-Africa summit in Libya (November 29 to December 1).

Nevertheless, discussions on economic partnership and investment aside, the EU-Africa summit will likely be diverted by the issue of tackling illegal migration. The announced absence of President Hassan el-Bashir of Sudan, who faces an international arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, and Libya’s surprising failure to press el-Bashir to change his mind, is also another interesting aspect of the summit, as far as inter-African relations are concerned.

The Libyan leader is said to be keen on discussing illegal migration from the outset. The last time that Col. Qadhafi spoke of challenging illegal migration, he asked the EU to supply EUR five billion in ‘economic aid’; he will likely make more requests for this kind of aid without really adding much as far as actually tackling the issue.

The EU comes to the summit having already secured a symbolic diplomatic victory. President al-Bashir has pulled out of the summit, ostensibly to avoid embarrassing Libya, under pressure from Europe, which had demanded assurances to this effect. But this being al-Bashir, he may yet show up in Tripoli with the excuse that he is attending summit of the African Union Peace and Security Council that begins after the Euro-African meeting. Then should el-Bashir decide to attend, in extremis, the summit that intends to establish “throw off the burden of colonial history to forge a new partnership of equality between Europe and Africa,” will be diverted. Rather than improve inter-continental ties, it will serve to highlight African accusations of European hypocrisy and European concerns that African governance has a long way to go before growth, and post-crisis investment can proceed. Another problem is that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron (who hasn’t established the kind of ‘warm’ ties with the Libyan leadership entertained by Tony Blair), are not attending. This will make it harder for Europe to achieve any kind of deal over immigration with the Libyan leader.

After Qadhafi’s pan-African shift in the mid-90’s, characterized by a no-visa entry policy for African migrants; Libya’s population has swollen with an estimated two million migrants, most of whom want to make it to the European ‘promised land’. This problem has become a political time bomb in Europe, which desperately needs to find a practicable solution that also honors the human rights the EU preaches. The current policy of pushing back boats full of migrants to the shores they left from (in most cases Libya, when it comes to the Mediterranean), has drawn international criticism and is politically fragile for the countries enforcing it (such as Italy, where the various oppositions are all promising to revise the ‘rejection at sea’ policy to meet approaches more in line with what is advocated by the UN and other human rights groups). Libya wants both the EU and Africa to tackle the illegal migration problem and has pleaded for funds to help monitor borders. In October, Libya has installed radar along its coastline to monitor potential migrants’ movements, after asking the EU for more money to handle the problem. Doubtless, Qadhafi will plead for more funds, but without Europe’s main three leaders present, it is unlikely that any deal will be reached. The best that can be hoped to come out of the EU-Africa summit is that that the Africans and Europeans agree to discuss migration at an especially devoted event, which would need the EU and the African Union to establish respective common positions.

Libya has the potential to help in establishing a common African position (thanks to its growing influence, through largesse in forms of aid and investment), in African affairs, though not all African governments consider Libya’s brand of influence helpful. The first problem is that Libya’s largesse is very personal; it is the fruit of Qadhafi’s personal ideological project; it is rooted in a whim and there are no guarantees that the Libyan leader won’t change his mind – or that any of his potential successor would follow the policy. With all due reservations, then, Libya has donated tractors to Gambia, helped finance telecom deals in Chad and financed hospitals in many countries of West Africa, some of which are named after the Libyan leader. Ostensibly, Libya’s aid intends to “to promote development and allow Africa to shake off exploitation”. However, Qadhafi continues to use the ‘King of Kings’ appellation – which he launched upon assuming the rotating presidency of the African Union in 2009 – which worries African leaders that he may be trying to export his own ‘special’ brand of ‘democracy’ to African countries that are just starting to make some progress in developing stronger institutions. China, Brazil and India do not expect ideological returns on their investments. Qadhafi’s Green Book portrays democracy as a form of dictatorship, and this message runs counter to the many African countries turning toward building more democratic systems – even Ivory Coast held an election in November. Qadhafi has not yet given up on establishing the United States of Africa on a vision inspired by his own ‘Third Universal Theory’. When African countries, especially in the West Africa and Sahel region that is experiencing an especially dynamic political period, accept his aid, they have no assurances as to what exactly they’re getting into.

Sustained high oil prices have swollen Libyan sovereign funds and investment vehicles, which has enabled Libya to become even more profligate with aid and gifts to neighbors – in return for prestige or possible influence. The anniversary of Libya’s ‘Fatah revolution’, the coup that brought Qadhafi to power in 1969, was actually celebrated with fanfare and in the presence of government ministers in Gambia. One of Libya’s sovereign funds, the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAP) is said to have started with USD five billion, which a London based asset manager, FM Capital Partners, is helping to invest in Africa. LAP also owns Tripoli based Afriqiyah Airways, and Libya has stated its intention to make Tripoli an airport hub linking Europe to Africa. The Libyan leader was first to visit Mauritania after the coup that brought to power president Ould Abd-al-Aziz in 2008.

Mauritania owes Libya some USD 200 million, but Mauritanian political leaders, opposition included, have come to pay allegiance to the Libyan leader on more than one occasion; in addition, Libya is expected to send funds to build a hospital and a university – appropriately named Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. Libya tends to increase the degree of ‘generosity’ before major summits (which raises questions about Qadhafi’s demands for billions to control borders). Critics of Libya’s largesse, complain that meetings and conference agendas are usurped by Qadhafi’s ‘money, which shifts the agenda away from topics of pan-African concern to the Libyan leader’s personal agenda. This means that Libya can obtain support for its causes (including supporting a second consecutive turn as AU president when his presidency expired in 2010) from countries receiving its aid. Such policies can include interfering in international warrants such as the arrest of Sudanese president Hassan el-Bashir, which is facing an international arrest warrant, last July at an AU meeting in Kampala, Uganda. Therefore, Qadhafi finds himself in a position from where he can literally shape African policy to his liking. Evidently, the EU should be concerned, as it tries to devise new investment and security strategies in Africa.
 

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