CAIRO: The France-Africa Summit kicked off in the French city of Cannes Thursday in the presence of 30 African leaders including President Hosni Mubarak.
The meeting will be the last to be attended by French President Jacques Chirac.
Entitled “Africa and World Balance , this is the 24th installment of the bi-annual event. The focus will be on Africa’s oil and mineral wealth as more countries make a concerted effort to enter the African market, especially China.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told the press that Mubarak would offer a viewpoint on the African contribution to the international community in the speech he will give at the summit Friday.
France is hoping to gain access to the continent’s natural resources by offering financial assistance to African nations without them having to adhere to the good governance standards usually required by Western countries, France included.
This is to counter China’s approach, offering debt relief and low-interest loans to carve a niche in Africa and its mineral wealth.
The press reported French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy as quoted on French television as saying: “There is a tough competition, China which did not use to go to Africa, is now going to Africa, which is the reason why it is very important to have a summit like this one.
Although not on the summit agenda, the Darfur crisis was also due to be discussed in a meeting held between the presidents of Sudan and its neighbors, the Central African Republic and Chad Thursday afternoon to address the immediate crisis.
However, Chadian Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-Mi described the gathering as “pointless prior to the meeting.
Awad said that an Egyptian initiative will be put forth in the summit, arguing for the creation of a coordinating body that will facilitate between the International Security Council and the African Security Council as 60 percent of the conflict cases put examined by the Security Council emanate from Africa.
“Egypt sees the necessity in creating such a framework so that the voice of Africa can reach the world, Awad said.
Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe was not present at the two day gathering because of an EU travel ban imposed on him.