First ever Saudi-Africa summit welcomes countries shunned by West

By Melissa Chemam with RFI
Europe  Nigeria presidency
© Nigeria presidency

Saudi Arabia and African countries were set to sign deals worth some 500 million euros at an economic summit in Riyadh – the first of its kind. The three-day event, which began Friday, hopes to boost political and investment ties, while also addressing regional security threats.

The Gulf nation has high hopes for the the Saudi-Arab-African Economic Conference, which it has heavily invested in.

Summit guests included leaders without Western support, such as Gabon's transitional leader, General Brice Oligui Nguema, who deposed longtime president Omar Bongo in a coup in August.

RFI's correspondent in Gabon, Yves-Laurent Goma, said Nguema intended to speak about forest protection, but would also lobby for an end to global sanctions against his country.

'Common history'

In his opening remarks, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said Saudi Arabia and the African continent shared a "common history and destiny", adding the partnership between the two sides was ever-growing.

Meanwhile Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the kingdom's 600 billion euro wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, would make some "game changing" investments in Africa.

Preliminary energy agreements were signed with countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Chad and Ethiopia, while Riyadh said it would help Ghana and other countries with their debt.

Mozambique said it had signed a financing agreement of $158 million with the Saudi Development Fund for infrastructure projects including the construction of hospitals and a dam.

Saudi Arabia has been forging diplomatic ties with the African continent since the 1970s. They were strengthened in 2018 with the appointment of a secretary of state dedicated to African Affairs.

It is a current negotiator in the war that has been tearing Sudan apart for seven months, and is a financial contributor in the fight against terrorism for the G5 Sahel.

(with newswires)