President Isaias Afwerki: Partnership with Saudi Arabia will Uplift Region from Underdevelopment Swamp

Interviews News

The Saudi-Eritrean partnership is a comprehensive integrative strategy, guided by a serious developmental plan with specified timelines.

Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki appeared optimistic about the Saudi-African partnership, deeming it as a lifeline for the region’s people, rescuing them from the quagmire of underdevelopment and propelling them towards progress and sustainable development.

He emphasized the potential to harness the natural resources of the African continent, comprising over 60% of the world’s resources. This partnership, according to Afwerki, aims to secure food sources in the face of climate change-induced scarcity.

Speaking from his residence at the Ritz-Carlton in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, after participating in the Saudi-African summit, President Afwerki discussed various issues, particularly those concerning Africa and the collaboration with Saudi Arabia, as well as internal reform matters.

Following is an excerpt of the interview Afwerki had with Asharq Al-Awsat:

Q: Saudi relations with African nations are characterized as distinctive, and the Saudi-African summit is seen as the culmination of these ties, with you being one of the participants. What sets this summit apart?

President Isaias Afwerki: What distinguishes the Saudi-African summit from other meetings and summits in various places and different eras is that it fosters a genuine strategic partnership between the African continent and Saudi Arabia. Its significance lies in being held amidst complex regional and international conditions, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s abundant resources and opportunities across various dimensions.

This is juxtaposed with the immense natural wealth of African nations, coupled with a human population exceeding 1.2 billion, contributing to Africa’s resources, which account for 60% of the world’s total medical resources.

Q: Why has the African continent not yet fully benefited from its vast human and natural resources?

President Isaias Afwerki: Indeed, there is a constellation of challenges facing the African continent, as it remains marginalized by the Western world in comparison to its counterparts on other continents. Additionally, much of Africa grapples with political instability, leading to economic uncertainty.

In this context, the Saudi-African summit presents a significant opportunity for genuine integration between the two parties.

It is imperative that the strategic partnership between them be comprehensive, as Saudi capabilities can uplift African capacities and its abundant resources. This positive impact will reverberate across all continents.

Our understanding of this partnership should recognize its uniqueness in the midst of a new historical era marked by crises and challenges, post the Cold War and the era of a unipolar world.

With more than 30 years since the dominance of a unipolar era, we are now transitioning to a multipolar world order.

The time has come to explore the abundant opportunities offered by Africa’s vast economic potential and strategically invest in intelligent partnerships.

This is crucial for securing the future of the coming generations.

A proper understanding of this partnership involves carefully designing vital projects, accompanied by a roadmap encompassing plans and capacity development. Serious efforts are needed to translate these plans into reality.

Q: What is the optimal approach to achieving the objectives of the strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia?

President Isaias Afwerki: There is a pressing need to change the approach adopted by African nations and work towards eliminating political turmoil, fragility, and weakness prevalent in many countries, such as Niger, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Sudan, and countries in the Horn of Africa and its surroundings.

It is essential to reconcile their situations and awaken from dreams that do not benefit our people.

Combating corruption in all its forms, improving governance, and being vigilant about the dangers of foreign interventions are crucial steps.

It is also vital to address the vulnerabilities that some African leaders may expose to the Western world.

Only through these measures can we build a true strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia, aspiring to transform African opportunities into investment projects that promote sustainable development for the region’s people.

President Isaias Afwerki interview with Asharq Al-Awsat
“The partnership with Saudi Arabia is an ideal opportunity to address our internal errors, leverage our resources and partnerships, and confront threats built on ethnic and racial concepts inflamed by forgery and manipulation of democracy, freedom, and civic participation concepts.” – President Isaias Afwerki


Q: What about collaborating with Saudi Arabia on securing the Red Sea and maritime passages?

President Isaias Afwerki: The Saudi-Eritrean partnership is a comprehensive integrative strategy, guided by a serious developmental plan with specified timelines. We aspire to strengthen and expand trade and investment relations, extending them to encompass the Horn of Africa region.

This expansion includes areas such as security and manufacturing industries. However, bilateral cooperation is not limited in scope.

In terms of securing and stabilizing the Red Sea as a vital international waterway, this is an integral component of our strategic partnership, distinguished by its geopolitical specificity.

It addresses security threats while retaining the sovereign capabilities of each Red Sea coastal country to secure its regional waters.

Coordination among these coastal nations is crucial to developing mechanisms for the security and stability of the Red Sea, protecting it from external interventions.

Should any coastal country need to leverage its external interests with another nation, it can do so through coordination, consultation, and collaboration among member states.

This collaboration aims to enhance investments in capacities, industries, energy, mining, tourism, modern technology, water, agriculture, health, education, fisheries, infrastructure, and green projects.

Q: Do you not see potential challenges that might hinder such strategic partnerships?

President Isaias Afwerki: Yes, despite the African continent’s abundance of food security resources globally, challenges have created a stark reality. Enhancing project governance and working collaboratively to extricate ourselves from the swamp we’ve been trapped in for decades—marked by crises and destruction—hinders the realization of any strategic partnership with any party worldwide.

Closing gaps against Western nations exploiting our resources is a necessity.

I have discussed this matter with our West African colleagues, citing France’s exploitation of Niger’s resources, especially uranium used by Europe in nuclear and electrical energy facilities for over 50 years.

The Nigerien people have not benefited significantly due to political, economic, social, and cultural system flaws in Niger.

The reality is that we do not approach partnerships with any Western country like France unless they deal with us justly, ensuring our people receive the rightful returns from our resources.

Consider another example—Sudan, often referred to as the world’s breadbasket with diverse, countless resources, yet it still receives foreign aid.

I reiterate: we must rectify our internal political, security, economic, social, and cultural situations to benefit from any partnership with countries or continents.

The partnership with Saudi Arabia is an ideal opportunity to address our internal errors, leverage our resources and partnerships, and confront threats built on ethnic and racial concepts inflamed by forgery and manipulation of democracy, freedom, and civic participation concepts.

Media distortion and interference exploited by external forces to advance their agendas in our African countries must be countered.

Therefore, a realistic diagnosis of Africa’s problems is fundamental, with the imperative that our people acknowledge it.

Planning for absorption is crucial because every African economy is primitive, lacking transformative industries.

There’s an urgent need for education to enhance human resource efficiency, and halt the migration exodus of our youth to Europe in the face of life-threatening challenges. Unless Africa resolves its problems decisively, there won’t be a fruitful partnership. [Asharq Al-Awsat]