In growing Africa, where is Indonesia?
Many people in Indonesia still consider Africa a backward continent, the epitome of extreme poverty, hunger, disease, drought, civil war and dictatorships. But now Africa, once known as the “dark continent”, is shining and full of surprises.
“Africa, which has long been stigmatized by its negative image as an area rife with disease, famine and civil war, has now been transformed into a region of rapid economic development,” Riyadi, an official from the Foreign Ministry’s directorate of African affairs, said at a seminar recently.
A similar view was echoed by the dean of the diplomatic corps, Zimbabwean Ambassador to Indonesia Alice Mageza, in connection with the celebration of Africa Day, whose theme is “Boosting Intra-African Trade”, on Friday.
“It is remarkable to note that despite a global economic slowdown, African countries’ average growth rate reached 5 to 6 percent in 2011, some even posted double-digit growth rates,” Ambassador Mageza, who is also the dean of the Group of African Ambassadors, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Africa Day is celebrated by all Africans every May 25, symbolizing the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963. In July 2002, the OAU transformed into the African Union (AU) , which has currently 54 members. Morocco, a North African country and one of the founders of the OAU, is not a member of the AU but African solidarity has not diminished in Morocco.
“Moroccan diplomacy has always worked in order to place the issue of African development as central to international concerns,” Moroccan Ambassador to Indonesia Mohamed Majdi, told the Post on Thursday.
Africa is not only promising but some countries are actually booming and the rapid economic growth is poised to continue in 2012.
According to the EconomyWatch website, six of the world’s 12 fastest growing economies in 2012 will be from Africa: Niger, Angola, Liberia, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia.
Despite old problems of poverty and underdevelopment, democracy is blossoming in Africa and gender equality is improving, particularly in Rwanda where women lawmakers outnumber men. Africans have more mobile phones than Europeans or Americans. Foreign investors are flocking to Africa. And the list goes on.
But the question is where is Indonesia in this fast-growing Africa?
Indonesia has a good image among Africa’s 54 countries, including the new nation of South Sudan, thanks to Jakarta’s leading role in organizing the Bandung Conference in 1955 to boost solidarity among Asian and African countries and liberate both continents from colonialism. In 2005, Jakarta hosted the Asian-African Summit (AAS), which yielded the historic Declaration on the New Asian African-Strategic Partnership (NAASP).
Though there has been an increase in trade and investments since 2005, Indonesia, the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, lags behind its Asian peers like China, India, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.
Indonesia’s exports to Africa reached US$5.56 billion in 2011, while imports touched $3.99 billion. Overall trade surged to $9.55 billion in 2011, a huge jump from the $4.76 billion in 2009.
These trade figures are far below the figures of China and India, who gained maximum benefit from the NAASP. For example, China’s trade with Africa in 2011 jumped to $160 billion, a 16-fold surge from a mere $10.6 billion in 2000. India’s trade with Africa was valued at $62 billion in 2011.
Only a few Indonesian firms like Indorama, Indofood, Wika, Garuda Food, Medco and Bakrie Group had invested in several African countries. But their investments are small in nature.
The time has come for Indonesia and its businesses to focus more on this rising Africa, which offers numerous opportunities in oil and gas, diamonds, cocoa, cotton and minerals. Most African countries need Indonesia’s prime products like palm oil, coal, coffee, rubber, tires, paper, electronics, automobiles, textiles, food, furniture and IT products.
Sumber : The Jakarta Post