Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations Conference (AASROC) Ministerial Working Group Meeting, Durban, South Africa, 24 March 2004

We, the Foreign Ministers of the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Indonesia, had the honour to co-chair the first Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations (AASROC) Working Group Meeting in Durban on 24 March 2004. The Meeting was attended by delegates from 19 countries and the representatives from 10 sub-regional / international organisations.


a. that the Governments of Indonesia and South Africa co-hosted the First Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations Conference (AASROC I) in Bandung, Indonesia, in order to revive the spirit of cooperation between the two continents. Inspired by “the Spirit of Bandung” of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference, the two-day Conference had as its theme: “Towards a New Strategic Partnership between Asia and Africa”;

b. that AASROC I considered ways and means by which the peoples of the two continents could achieve full economic, cultural, social and political cooperation, and address global challenges facing both continents;

c. that the African Union adopted the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as its programme for poverty eradication, socio-economic development and growth; that the African Regional Economic Communities have a critical role to play in the implementation of the NEPAD programme; that the UN in November 2002 accepted NEPAD as the framework for engagement with Africa; and that the international community and the United Nations have committed themselves to support the implementation of NEPAD;

d. that AASROC I recognised the need to actively pursue a common view and collective action to ensure a more equitable sharing of the benefits of globalisation by countries in Asia and Africa; the need for Asia and Africa to support and strengthen multilateralism as a means to effectively addressing global issues; and the importance of regional and sub-regional organisations as building blocks to further strengthen multilateral efforts;

e. that AASROC I expressed support for the establishment of a New Strategic Partnership between the two continents, incorporating existing initiatives, exchanges of experience and best practices among countries and sub-regional and regional organisations in Asia and Africa;


f. AASROC I identified the following as underlying principles in the development of a New Strategic Partnership:

- The Ten Principles of Bandung (Dasa Sila Bandung) adopted at the 1955 Asian-African Conference.

- Recognition of diversity between and within regions, including different social and economic systems and levels of development.

- The Asian-African New Strategic Partnership centres on Asian and African ownership based on a common vision, an equal partnership and a firm and shared conviction.

- Commitment to open dialogue based on mutual respect and benefit.

- Cooperation where there is scope for common interest and mutual benefit.

- Efforts to strengthen, complement and build upon existing regional and sub-regional organisations’ initiatives in both regions.

- Cooperation should be practical and based on comparative advantage and mutual strength.


· Contribution of Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations towards a New Strategic Partnership

· Structures for Cooperation

· Levels, time frames and composition of dialogue on the areas of cooperation identified by AASROC I.


Firstly, three broad areas of cooperation were identified, namely:

· Political;

· Economic; and

· Social and Cultural.

These areas of cooperation must be developed within the context of the environment of globalisation and intra-regional cooperation.

AASROC must focus on practical, achievable, concrete areas where the initiative can add value as a process in a pragmatic fashion.

In this regard, it was agreed that economic issues, trade, investment and human resource development are the areas of primary focus of the New Strategic Partnership.

Recognising the pivotal role to be played by the private sector in this regard, the meeting decided to create an Asia-Africa Business Forum, to run on its own steam once established. The Forum should focus on exploring business opportunities, promoting trade and investment and generating the required resources.

The meeting identified the need to streamline and align existing initiatives for coherence and maximum benefit and to avoid duplication, ie AASROC with TICAD, Sino-Africa, India-Africa, the Langkawi International Dialogue and the Smart Partnership Initiative.

As regards structural arrangements, three tiers of Asian-African interaction were identified, namely:

· Inter-Governmental Forum

· Sub-regional Organisations

· People-to People interaction (Business, academia, civil society).

In this regard, it was agreed that there should be an Asia-Africa Summit level meeting once every 4 years. Asia-Africa Ministers will meet every two years, while sectoral Ministers (such as Agriculture, Health, Trade, Finance, ICT etc.) will meet as required. Expert Working Groups/Sectoral Committee meetings at Ministerial level if necessary and, where possible, on the margins of existing technical meetings in order to limit expenses and time spent away from capitals, will be held as required.

In order to afford the peoples of Asia and Africa the opportunity to meaningfully engage with each other to foster closer cooperation, arrangements will be made to facilitate interaction between civil society stakeholders in Africa and Asia, including the business sector interaction described above, representatives from youth, gender, religious, civic, disabled, cultural, labour and professional representative organisations, academics, scholars, think-tanks and other research institutions.

The pivotal role of the respective Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations was emphasised. They should meet on an annual basis to allow for an exchange of best practices in conjunction with key donors, project managers and investors. The AU will serve as a coordinating focal point for the African RECs in this process. The ASEAN Secretariat and the SADC Secretariat will coordinate the organisation of the first Regional and Sub-regional Organisations meeting.

The meeting identified various studies that are to be compiled by various countries/organisations of Asia and Africa as follows.

· The need for the media to play a role in informing the countries that make up AASROC about each others societies. It was proposed that visits be undertaken by the media of the respective countries in the run up to the Summit in Bandung.

· With regard to the agreement on the need for an Asian-African Business Forum, Japan, Indonesia, Mozambique, Uganda, Egypt, South Africa and the EAC were tasked with examining practical steps to launch the agreed Asian-African Business Forum. This includes examining how to synchronise existing business interactions and to ensure that there is cooperation to strengthen business ties, for example, the Africa-Asia Business Forum under TICAD and the TICAD Asia-Africa Trade and Investment Conference.

· Ghana was identified to lead a study on commodities and their role in trade and subsequent development patterns.

· Mozambique, China, Japan, Ghana, EAC and SADC were tasked with collating information for AASROC II regarding all existing initiatives. In this regard, India offered to provide a comprehensive guide to its involvement with Africa, including NEPAD, dialogue with the African Union, SADC, and other RECs and the T-9 initiative with countries of West Africa.

· In respect of culture, it was suggested that member countries identify institutions in Africa and Asia to promote cultural exchange.

· Egypt together with India and possibly Malaysia are to lead a study of institutions of excellence, including universities, think tanks and other centres of excellence.

· A paper is to be prepared by the ASEAN Secretariat to provide a guide as to what the critical elements were that allowed certain countries in Asia to develop rapidly. This would be useful as a way of sharing experiences/information to assist African countries in their efforts to fast track the process of economic growth.

· The meeting acknowledged that there is insufficient knowledge regarding each other in Asia and Africa. Therefore, it was decided that South Africa, Indonesia, Morocco and other volunteer countries would prepare a study paper for the AASROC II meeting in August 2004 regarding:

- What is the current situation pertaining to economic interaction, trade and investment between Africa and Asia?

- What are the barriers to improved cooperation and interaction and how do we deal with them?

- What are the opportunities and comparative advantages that exist?

· Tanzania provided the meeting with a study entitled “A Fair Globalisation – Creating Opportunities For All” commissioned by the ILO.

Finally, it was agreed that Indonesia and South Africa should continue to coordinate the preparation process until the 2005 Summit in Bandung, Indonesia.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa