GIGA Focus International Edition English

Aftermath of the Sirte Summit: Arab-African Cooperation on the Upswing?

GIGA Focus | International Edition English | Number 06 |

On October 10, 2010, in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, the second Arab-African summit took place, more than 30 years after the first one. Numerous heads of state from the Arab League and the African Union took part in this joint conference.

By the 1970s substantial Arab-African cooperation had already come into being and was institutionalized at the summit in Cairo in 1977. The goal was to bring about a balance of interests between Arab oil states that—thanks to OPEC’s petroleum revolution—acquired substantial foreign currency revenue, and capital-poor, but resource- and waterrich African states. With financial help from the Arab states, both the economic development of Africa and the supply of food (the "breadbasket strategy") and raw materials from Africa to the Arab states would be effectuated.

  • The cooperative efforts were strained from the beginning because the Arab states hinged their financial and economic cooperative willingness—although unspoken—on political factors (primarily on whether the African states supported their position on Israel).

  • Although the Arab-African cooperation was institutionalized in a way that made voting rights equally distributed, in fact it was de facto hierarchically organized. The Arab states were less committed to communal cooperation per se than they were to bilateral cooperative relationships, which they could have more control over.

  • The fresh start in Arab-African cooperation spurred by the conference in Sirte is in line with the old concept of "balance of interests" on an international level.

  • The new strategic partnership will only last if the Arab states put an end to their political instrumentalization and cease pursuing goals of power politics.

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Suggested Citation Style

Mattes, Hanspeter (2010), Aftermath of the Sirte Summit: Arab-African Cooperation on the Upswing?, GIGA Focus International Edition English, 06, urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-275858


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The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

General Editor GIGA Focus Series: Prof. Dr. Sabine Kurtenbach