In the present context of international relations, cooperation between Asian and African countries remains critical linked to the increasing nature of cooperation between Africa and Asia.1 On the 1st March 2014, South Africa's Minister of International Relations & Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, visited Indonesia to attend a conference on Cooperation Amongst East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development. She attended the meeting in her capacity as a co-chair of the New Asia Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP), an initiative that sets out to strengthen the relationship of the Asia-Africa continents.
Informed by this background, the article discusses the prospect of NAASP's capacity to revive the Bandung spirit of the 1955 conference and how it will stay relevant and influential to enhance South-South cooperation
NAASP was endorsed in 2005 during the Asia-Africa summit held in Indonesia to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1955 Bandung conference. One of the significant principles of Bandung conference is to consider "the problems of common interest and concern to countries of Asia and Africa, and discussed ways and means by which their people could achieve fuller economic, cultural and political co-operation".2 South Africa and Indonesia currently co-chair the NAASP with both countries committed to drive this initiative forward. To revive the spirit of the Bandung, the 2005 summit declared that NAASP will serve as a blue print to bolster future cooperation between the two continents by focusing on the three broad pillars of partnership, political solidarity, economic and socio-cultural cooperation.
As things stands a second NAASP summit is set to take place in 2015. However this will depends on how the African Union (AU) responds to South Africa's proposal to integrate NAASP into AU's multilateral structures and process, as it is the only existing African multilateral partnership that does not fall under the overall framework on multilateral cooperation with the AU.3
There are also other factors that need to be analysed to determine NAASP's capacity for future cooperation. The most important key aspect is the relationship NAASP will have with the already existing initiatives between Asia and Africa. As noted in the 2005 summit declaration, it is important to complement and build upon the existing initiatives that link the continents4 such as India-Africa relations, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development and Asian-African Sub-Regional Organizations Conference (AASROC)
The current Asia-Africa relation is yet to reach the aspiration of the Bandung conference. This can be attributed to the fact that after the Bandung conference optimism surrounding Africa-Asia relations slowly faded in the decades that followed.5 This was because the ambitions of African and Asian leaders for bottom-up growth and development based on unity and social solidarity had largely been replaced by the development paradigms that have been reinforced by Western rhetoric and supported the Westernised global capitalist market.6
Currently the principal challenge is the fact that NAASP is yet to become a formal structure for multilateral cooperation, as a result this creates uncertainties about the functionality of NAASP and how long will it take to be integrated into the AU structures. According to the proposal submitted to the AU by South Africa, if NAASP is integrated into the AU structures and processes it would have to take other continental partnership models into account (the Africa-EU and ASA Partnerships)7.
Formalising NAASP to become a full functional multilateral structure of cooperation between the continents is of priority as it is significant for NAASP to have a constructed framework in order to become operational. Consequently, NAASP is still an initiative that stands a great opportunity to become the driver of Africa Asia relationship. Now the responsibility and the survival of NAASP lies with the current leaders of the countries in both continents, already the groundwork for greater cooperation in the future has been laid by the 2005 summit.
1 (Mulyana, Y. G. H., 'The 1955 Bandung Conference and its present significance', The Jakarta Post, 29 April 2011, www.thejakartapost.com.)
2 Final Communiqué of the Asian-African conference of Bandung (24 April 1955) http://franke.uchicago.edu/Final_Communique_Bandung_1955.pdf 3 DIRCO http://www.dfa.gov.za/docs/2013pq/pq377.html
4 Declaration of the New Asian-African Strategic partnership
5 Understanding African-Asian cooperation at the regional level: ASEAN and the African Union
7 The integration of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership into African Union's structures and processes
Mr. Kenny Dlamini holds a BA Hons in Political & International Studies from Rhodes University and is a research assistant at the IGD. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the IGD