Thailand and Africa have enjoyed long-standing friendly relations enriched by cooperation towards regional peace and stability, strengthening economic ties, technical cooperation, and mutual support of common agendas at numerous international fora. People-to-people contact continues to increase, adding to the diverse social and cultural bonds.
As part of the Royal Thai Government’s Look West Policy to increase engagement beyond Thailand’s neighbours in the Asian region, Thailand is set to enhance strategic partnership with Africa in 2013 and beyond.
Africa is a rapidly developing region with high rate of growth expected to continue and to sustain in all parts of the continent.
The enormous size of the population and resources for development will transform Africa into a continent of greater affluence, increasing the quality of life of the peoples of Africa. Many parts of the continent will become important global economic centres with important linkages with other global centres of activities, particularly in Asia.
Asia continues to experience vibrant dynamism, and long-term economic prospects due to the vast and diverse regional markets, and strong economic fundamentals. Southeast Asia’s integration into a regional economic community under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community in 2015 will transform the region’s population of 600 million people with a combined gross domestic product worth 2.15 trillion US dollars into an important Asian and global hub for production and distribution.
Thailand, strategically located at the centre of the region has a crucial role towards harnessing synergies within the region and reaching out to other emerging regions, specifically Africa. Thailand, Asia and Africa are bound by both emerging opportunities for cooperation as well as common set of challenges.
The Thai-Africa Initiative seeks to enhance partnership between Thailand and Africa on three main pillars:
Thailand looks to Africa as a major economic partner and an aspiring continent full of opportunities from future connectivity and cooperation with Thailand. The changing patterns of international investment and trade flows make it necessary for developing regions to formulate and coordinate policy direction towards mutually beneficial trade and investment. Partnership between the public, private, and civil society is also vital for fostering closer economic partnership. Closer economic cooperation will ultimately promote growth and prosperity in both regions.
As a developing country amidst vibrant economic growth, Thailand also shares with Africa, similar development challenges, as well as the common vision towards shared progress and prosperity. These goals could be attained together through exchanging development experiences, and increasing South-South Cooperation.
Given the similarity of development experiences of Thailand and African countries, Thailand has stepped up our development cooperation with Africa on areas of common interest, especially where our partnership can bring value-added to our societies and peoples, such as sustainable agriculture, public health, education and human resources development.
Thailand has already initiated the Thai Volunteer Programme with the aim of strengthening people-to-people friendship between the peoples of Thailand and Africa. Under this programme, Thai experts will work with their African counterparts in Africa to support technical cooperation projects.
Thailand, Asia and Africa have long had historical cooperation such as the Bandung Conference in 1955, the recent New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) in 2005, as well as through the comprehensive New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). However, current region-region architecture has not yet been able to consolidate a strong and unified voice on the global common agenda, particularly on important issues which affect both Africa and Asia. There is still a missing platform for coordinating efforts on major international issues.
In addition to strengthening ties between Thailand and Africa, The Thai-Africa Initiative will help generate greater momentum for closer cooperation between Asia and Africa, which are currently two important driving forces of the world economy. This Initiative will be based on mutual respect and trust, mutual learning, shared interest and a common belief in our shared destiny.
The Thai-Africa Initiative will strive to enhance engagement between the two sides on a wide range of areas of common interest in the spirit of South-South cooperation, promote closer connectivity between the two continents and their peoples, as well as ensuring a stronger voice for Asia and Africa in the world affairs.
To take this idea forward, the Prime Minister of Thailand announced that Thailand will convene the Thai - Africa High - Level Dialogue in February 2014. The Prime Minister of Thailand extended her invitation to various African leaders to participate in this High-Level Dialogue in order to exchange views on how Asia and Africa can forger a stronger partnership.