Asia and Africa need to come to­gether to solve shared is­sues

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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