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Jakarta Post

IAF: A historical milestone in Indonesia-Africa ties

IAF: A historical milestone in Indonesia-Africa ties . (./.)
Jakarta, Indonesia   ●   Mon, April 9, 2018

Indonesia will host the first-ever Indonesia-Africa Forum (IAF) from April 10 to 11 at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center, Bali. The Forum marks a historical milestone in friendship and cooperation between Indonesia and the countries of Africa.  

The IAF 2018 is expected to attract 550 delegates from Indonesia and African countries. High-level delegates will include ministers from both Indonesia and African countries.

The connection between Indonesia and Africa goes back to ancient times. In terms of anthropological ties, some studies have revealed that the ancestors of the Madagascar people may have come from Indonesia. In South Africa, a Malay community exists, whose members are descendants of Sheikh Yusuf, an Islamic religious leader from South Sulawesi.

The IAF aims at translating the modern political proximity and friendship that have existed between Indonesia and African countries ever since the Asia-Africa Conference in 1955, into closer and concrete economic cooperation.

As such, the forum shall serve as an avenue for multi-stakeholder engagements involving representatives from governments and the private sector.

The IAF 2018 is also in line with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s instruction on the imperative to increase Indonesia’s exports to and investment in Africa.

Optimism about stronger economic collaboration with African countries through the IAF 2018 is well founded.

African countries are potential trading partners for Indonesia. Data compiled by the Trade Ministry show that Indonesia’s total exports to all African countries in 2017 amounted to US$4.86 billion, an increase from the previous year, which stood at $4.16 billion. Indonesia is also ready to increase its imports from Africa by importing several products including crude oil, cotton and other key commodities.

To enhance economic ties, Indonesia will also encourage countries in Africa to reduce their tariffs, which are among the main obstacles to economic cooperation.

Indonesia has investments in a number of countries in Africa — a continent with a gross domestic product of $2.17 trillion and a potential market of 1.22 billion people (2016). Several African countries have invested a total of $743 million in Indonesia. So far, key sectors in Indonesian-African economic cooperation include the palm oil and automotive sectors, as well as textiles.

Africa has also contributed to Indonesia’s energy resilience, with countries like Nigeria and Angola being among Indonesia’s key suppliers of oil and gas, vital elements in Indonesia’s rapid development.

Moreover, as fellow emerging markets, African countries are reliable partners in advancing common and, particularly, Indonesian national interests in strengthening its presence in the global market. For example, Indonesia has worked together with key African countries like Nigeria and Madagascar to advance sustainable palm oil as one of the key drivers to realize sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Against this background, the IAF 2018 will provide a space for its participants to unleash potential and explore various opportunities between Indonesia and Africa. It will also discuss ways and means to boost existing and future cooperation, including in the area of development cooperation, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Among the elements of development cooperation that both parties seek to increase is vocational training and scholarships for the citizens of Indonesia and countries in Africa. Last year, around 131 participants from several countries in Africa attended, and benefited from, vocational training in Indonesia, as well as benefiting from their countries’ developing cooperation with Indonesia.

At the IAF 2018, there will also be business deals signed as well as business-contract announcements. Strategic projects to be announced during the forum include Indonesian state-owned construction firm PT Wijaya Karya’s (WIKA) construction projects in Niger and Algeria; Indonesia’s oil trade with Nigeria and Angola; as well as Senegal’s interest in purchasing CN-235 aircraft made in Indonesia. It is also hoped that PT INKA can participate in a project in Zambia.

To ensure follow ups, the forum will also provide an opportunity for its participants to make the necessary preparations for an upcoming Indonesia-Africa Infrastructure Dialogue, which will take place in the second half of 2019. The forum will also feature an exhibition highlighting Indonesia’s strategic industries as well as retail businesses.

Bound by the spirit of the Bandung Asia-Africa Conference of 1955, the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) of 2005 and other related forums, the ties between Indonesia and the African continent go well beyond economic realms.

Indonesia and many countries in Africa are fellow and active proponents of the Non-Aligned Movement. In a world divided by political blocs, such a standpoint reflects on Indonesia’s and other countries’ stance as independent-minded nations. During the same period, Indonesia has been active in advocating the independence of African countries. Indonesia also walks the talk through its contributions to various peace-keeping and peace-building missions in Africa.