Asia and Africa need to come together to solve shared issues
Cynics and skeptics abound as Indonesia plays host to the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference this week, which will gather heads of state, ministers and senior government officials from 77 countries across the two continents.
The most frequently asked question by such critics and us all is of course the relevance of the event to today’s world, to people of the two continents and to Indonesia, which will spend more than 200 billion rupiah (NT$485.36 million; US$15.6 million) on the week-long commemoration.
Foreign minister Retno L. P. Marsudi has insisted that the first international forum President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government will hold will matter to Asia and Africa, home to three quarters of the world’s population of 7.2 billion.
For sure Retno is not exaggerating, although her remarks may sound cliche.
The Asian-African spirit that shrouded leaders and founding fathers of newly independent countries and nations aspiring for freedom in 1955 is still alive today despite their demise, as the challenges Asian and African peoples are facing have not changed much after six decades.
Colonialism, imperialism and any form of exploitation of one nation by another is rare, except for the unsettled independent aspirations of Palestine, but problems character- izing the developing world such as poverty, illiteracy and poor access to health care, remain prevalent.
Apart from the income gap, security threats such as diseases and armed conflicts have aggravated the grievances of the peoples in many parts of Asia and Africa.
Potential conflicts stemming from territorial disputes are lurking in Asia and may explode into fullblown wars if the parties involved fail to exercise restraint.
But despite the complexity of threats, no one can deny that Asia and Africa are continents of hope, not only because of their abundant human resources but also their richness in natural resources, both potential and proven.
The International Monetary Fund, for example, has found that Africa has, without much fanfare, approached Asia in terms of economic growth and predicted that Africa will soon post the fastest growth in the world.
Clearly the two continents have unlimited opportunities to bring prosperity to their own peoples and the rest of the world.
The former will require Asian and African nations to promote cooperation to a high level after so many years of neglect and reluctance. Such collaboration will materialize only if they know and trust each other. This is an editorial published by The Jakarta Post on April 21.