Egypt and Africa: Building bridges over the Nile
Egypt’s attention to the Nile Basin countries’ issue began a while ago
If you ask any official about Egyptian-African relations and whether Egypt has dropped the ball when dealing with African counties over the past decades, the diplomatic answer would be a clear cut no and that Egyptian-African relations are the best they could be. The official would also remind you of Egypt’s vital political fields: Arab, African, Muslim and non-aligned states.
However, this answer is a mere diplomatic one that does not reflect the truth: We in Egypt have l0ng neglected the African file. The current controversy between Egypt and Nile Basin countries is part of the price we’re currently paying as a result of this negligence.
Egypt’s attention to the Nile Basin countries’ issue began a while ago. This was seen through high-ranking officials’ concerns regarding relations between Egypt and these countries. We have, for the first time in a long time, begun to witness official Egyptian visits to these countries’ and their prime ministers. This is certainly positive even if it comes late in the day. Nile Basin countries are of strategic importance to Egypt. Therefore, it’s important for Egypt to deal with these countries within a comprehensive strategy and not just based upon bilateral relations. The basis of relations must thus be linking all Nile Basin countries’ mutual interests to the concept of increasing these countries’ benefit from the Nile River’s water and establishing projects which achieve this aim.
This means that Egypt must go beyond bilateral relations as I mentioned and head towards agreements that organize sharing the Nile River water upon a more comprehensive concept which includes different fields and finds a cooperation mechanism with each country alone as well as a cooperation mechanism between Nile Basin countries altogether.
Obstructions are numerous when it comes to Egyptian relations with Nile Basin countries. There is a decrease of commercial trade, the lack of regular navigation or aviation shipping lines, cancelling some EgyptAir flights to a number of these countries, a lack of railways, the increase of shipping prices and most importantly a lack of Egyptian presence in these countries.
It’s true that the Nile River water and Egypt’s rights are non-debatable but confirming this will only be realized through a mature policy that’s strategically devised and that enables us to contain any problems.
Therefore the proper approach to this situation is that which Egypt chose - even if it came late. It is based on cooperating within the context of mutual development. This stance corrects the current situation of countries who suffer from weak development and feel exploitated.
Therefore, it is only right that Egypt takes such an approach, one that depends on partnership in different projects and on marketing the idea of cooperation. Egyptian diplomacy is thus expected to head in the direction of establishing balanced and strong relations with other parties, pushing the wheel of investment and prioritizing different parties’ mutual interests.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, misinformed approaches will certainly lead to undesired results. This logic can be applied to any public, private, social, political or economic case. If one’s approach is confrontational, the end result will not be positive. I therefore think that Egypt has adopted the proper approach to dealing with some African countries. I hope this bodes well for the future.
This article was first published in al-Jarida on November 20, 2014.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy
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