Tag Archives: United Arab Emirates

Africa is setting an example for Arabs

Arab leaders and citizens do not often look at Africa for inspiration. For decades, the Dark Continent has been beset by civil wars, military coups, famine and recurrent outbreaks of endemic diseases. Millions of lives have been lost and economies destroyed. But Africa is waking up and moving forward and for the first time in decades achievements have been secured and growth sustained in many of the continent’s 55 nations.

This month something remarkable happened that promises to change the fate of African nations for good. At the African Union’s summit in Niger, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari gave the African Continental Free Trade Area a major boost by signing the continent’s largest economy onto the deal. With Nigeria joining the pact the world is now seeing the birth of the world’s largest free trade zone — a 55-nation bloc worth $3.4 trillion.

The pact aims are creating a single market for goods and services, facilitate free movement of people and investments, and eventually introduce a single-currency union.

Even more remarkable the leaders launched a Pan-African payment system aimed at reducing the use of third currencies — US dollars and Euros — in bilateral trade settlement across Africa saving nations between $5 billion and $7 billion, according to Okey Oramah, president of the African Export-Import Bank.

Geopolitical impact

There are efforts to push for the creation of an African Monetary Fund to help African states engage more actively in regional trade and intra-regional trade. The purpose is to help supplement what the IMF provides to countries facing balance of payments problems. Once operational it will have a capital subscription of up to $22 billion, but for the fund to exist a treaty that was agreed on in 2014 must be ratified by at least 15 nations.

Coming into effect by 2020 analysts believe the bloc will become the world’s largest free trade zone by cutting trade tariffs and barriers between 1.2 billion people. Aside from improving the continent’s infrastructure and bilateral trade, leaders hope that the free zone will have positive geopolitical impact by bringing in stability and preserving peace.

Raising the income of citizens and improving their living standards will help in the fight against terror groups in the long run, according to observers. UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed was quoted as saying that the AU’s goal of achieving peace across Africa by 2020 was attainable, adding that “we must work hard to silence the weapons.”

The continentwide trade agreement took 17 years to negotiate and approve but its rewards will be felt within few years, according to observers. African countries currently trade only about 16 per cent of their goods and services among one another, compared to 65 per cent with European countries. But by agreeing to reduce tariffs on 90 per cent of goods and services the AU estimates it will give a 60 per cent boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

Positive flow OF FDIs

In addition the agreement is expected to increase the positive flow of direct foreign investments into many countries in Africa. With more than 75 per cent of Africa’s external exports are raw material, such as oil and minerals which has stripped the continent of its natural wealth for centuries, the new pact will attract foreign investors who are expected to invest in the manufacturing sector, thus creating a new wave of industrialisation.

Yet the deal will have to go through a teething phase that includes tough negotiations on removing barriers and providing for fair competition. Also the deal faces legal and stereotypical challenges in the form of existing World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements that may hinder Africa’s collective negotiations on free trade with the rest of the world.

But overall the perception is positive and exciting and this is why one feels, as an Arab, that we have fallen behind.

The Arab world, of over 300 million citizens, should have moved to integrate its economies and create a viable free trade zone long ago. Ironically, the legal frameworks and agreements within the Arab League charter and beyond do exist and references to intra-Arab free trade have been made since the mid 1950s. But a quick look at intra-Arab trade reveals that it only makes less than 10 per cent of total external Arab trade estimated at $1.75 trillion dollars.

Interestingly, trade among GCC countries makes up more than 70 per cent of total intra-Arab trade and more than 80 per cent of total Arab external trade, the bulk being oil and related products. It is incumbent upon the GCC countries to take the lead in integrating other Arab economies since they have the infrastructure, wealth and experience.

There is a lot or work to be done especially as we need to move from the rhetorical assurances to enforcing agreements and creating a real pan Arab economic structure that ensures free trade, economic complimentarily, movement of people and intra-Arab flow of investments. The rewards are not only financial but political as well. That is the only way this part of the world can compete, innovate and preserve its achievements for future generations.

— Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.


Tanzania female domestic workers ‘abused’ in Oman and UAE

Female domestic workers in Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are subjected to physical and sexual abuse, long working hours and unpaid salaries, campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

Tanzania female domestic workers ‘abused’ in Oman and UAE

In a report released today, HRW said there were thousands of Tanzanian domestic workers in Oman and the UAE. Its researchers interviewed 50 of them and found that almost all had their passports confiscated on arrival and were forced to work up to 21 hours a day with no time off.

It added:

Workers who fled abusive employers or agents told us that the police or their own embassy officials forced them to go back, or they had to relinquish their salaries and spend months raising money for tickets home.”

[Workers] said they were paid less than promised or not at all, were forced to eat spoiled or leftover food, shouted at and insulted daily, and physically and sexually abused. Some of these cases amount to forced labour or trafficking into forced labour.”

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC Africa/Human Rights Watch

Qater-Gulf rift: the latest updates

The latest developments since several countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut ties with Qatar on June 5. (All times local Doha time).

Qatar-Gulf crisis

2:30pm – UN undersecretary Jeffrey Feltman in Doha

  • Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi, met with the United Nations undersecretary general Jeffrey Feltman in Doha.
  • During the meeting, Feltman expressed the UN’s concern about the continuation of the Gulf crisis. He also stressed UN support of the Kuwaiti mediation efforts to solve the crisis.

10:20am – Germany to help clear up Qatar accusations

  • Germany’s foreign minister says his country’s intelligence service will participate in efforts to clear up accusations by Arab neighbours that Qatar supports “terror groups”.
  • Gabriel told Deutschlandfunk radio Thursday there was an agreement for Qatar to “open all its books” to Germany’s intelligence service “if we have questions about certain people or structures”.
  • The minister said he no longer sees the risk of a military escalation in the standoff despite an angry reaction on Wednesday from the four Arab nations to Qatar’s response to their demands. Gabriel said that, while the reaction sounded harsh, many demands were no longer mentioned.

8:00am – Watch: What’s next in the gulf crisis

  • There are limited choices for the four countries that are blockading Qatar as the military option appears to be off the table and diplomatic pressure on Qatar will split the Gulf Cooperation Council, he says.

7:45pm – Turkey’s Erdogan underlines support for Qatar

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has underlined his country’s support for Qatar and its anger at the demand for the closure of a Turkish military base in Doha. He said the demand shows “a lack of respect toward us and Qatar”.
  • Erdogan told the German weekly Die Zeit on Wednesday that “what is being done with Qatar runs counter to international law”.

6:15pm – Saudi-led bloc voices regret over Qatari reply to demands

  • Four Arab states imposing a partial blockade against Qatar have voiced “regret” over Doha’s “negative reply” to their demands, according to a joint statement.
  • The statement was issued after the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain met in Cairo.
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a joint press conference that further steps against Qatar will be taken at the appropriate time in line with the international law.
  • He added that economic boycott against Qatar will remain until the country changes its policies for the better.
  • The minister also said he hoped that Turkey remained neutral in the crisis, while he called Iran “the biggest supporter of terrorism”.

6:15pm – Trump calls Egypt’s Sisi over Gulf crisis

  • US President Donald Trump has called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss the ongoing dispute between Qatar and its Arab neighbours, according to the White House.
  • Trump urged Egypt and other countries that imposed a blockade on Qatar “to negotiate constructively to resolve the dispute”.
  • Trump “reiterated the need for all countries to follow through on their commitments at the Riyadh Summit to stop terrorist financing and discredit extremist ideology”, the statement said.

5:25pm – Kuwait FM meets German counterpart

  • Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah met on Wednesday with the visiting German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
  • The foreign minister lauded Germany’s support of Kuwait’s mediation in resolving the regional crisis. For his part Gabriel reiterated his country’s support of Kuwait, while urging restraint in order to reach a solution that satisfies all parties.

3:05pm – Qatar FM calls for dialogue to resolve Gulf Crisis

  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said his country is going to do “whatever it takes to protect our people”, even as he urges more dialogue to resolve the crisis.
  • Sheikh Mohammed said that whatever Saudi Arabia and its allies take against Qatar should be based in international law.

3:55am – Saudi-led group confirms receiving Qatar’s response

  • “The four countries have received the Qatari response via Kuwait before the end of the additional deadline, which came at the request of HH Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait,” said Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt in a joint statement on Wednesday.
  • “Qatar will receive a reply in due time,” added the statement, which was reported by the Saudi News Agency.

1:05am – Arab intelligence chiefs meet in Cairo

  • Heads of intelligence from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain held a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.
  • MENA, citing “informed sources”, did not provide details of the meeting, which took place one day before foreign ministers from the four countries were due to meet to discuss the Gulf dispute.

12:13am – AU chair says Saudi FM’s Ethiopia visit not related to GCC crisis

  • Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, unexpectedly attended a summit of African Union (AU) leaders in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
  • When asked about Jubeir’s visit, Alpha Conde, the AU chairperson, insisted the Saudi diplomat’s trip was not an attempt to shore up support for a Saudi-led embargo against Qatar.
  • “No, he didn’t come here to discuss the crisis in the GCC,” Conde said, using an acronym for the Gulf Cooperation Council. “He came to discuss cooperation because Africa is against financing terrorism. We want to eradicate all sorts of terrorism. This is why we said we will cooperate with Kuwait in mediating this [Gulf] crisis.”

11:02pm – Qatar FM: List of demands unrealistic and not actionable

  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said “the fight against terrorism” is “a top priority” for his country.
  • “It is an issue of national security, not only to the state of Qatar but to the entire region,” he told reporters in Qatar’s capital, Doha, after a meeting with Sigmar Gabriel, his German counterpart.
  • “However, the unjust siege imposed by the other states under the pretext of combating terrorism is totally false and fabricated,” he added
  • The Qatari diplomat also said that the demands put to Doha by Saudi Arabia and its allies were impossible to meet.
  • “The list is unrealistic and is not actionable,” he said. “It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech.”

8:20pm – Gabriel: Qatar’s sovereignty must be respected

  • The foreign minister of Germany praised Qatar’s “restraint” in responding to a blockade imposed by Arab states amid the worst regional diplomatic crisis in years.
  • “There are boundaries that you should not cross, that the sovereignty of each of country and the respect of this national sovereignty has to be there,” Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in the Qatari capital, Doha, after a meeting with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
  • “It has to be a basic condition and when that is there, even the most difficult questions can be talked about,” added Gabriel, concluding a tour of the Gulf region, which also included stops in Saudi Arabia and the United Aran Emirates.

5:10pm – German FM in Qatar for Gulf crisis talks

  • Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, is visiting Qatar as part of a Gulf tour to resolve the regional diplomatic crisis.
  • He is talking to journalists along with his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, in Qatar’s capital, Doha. Here are some excerpts from the press conference.
  • German FM: Gulf disunity could weaken entire region
  • German FM: Sovereignty of all nations needs to be respected
  • German FM: Best solution to Gulf crisis is deal to end support for armed groups
  • German FM: Would be good if other Gulf states accepted the invitation to dialogue. Conflicts like this can only be resolved at the negotiating table
  • German FM: There are plenty of ways to prevent the crisis escalating
  • Qatar FM: We are fully prepared to engage in dialogue and examine grievances
  • Qatar FM: Enough with the smear campaign and false accusations

12:30pm – UAE says it is still waiting on Qatar response to demands

  • UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al Nahayan said that the Arab countries blockading Qatar were still waiting for a response to their demands via mediator Kuwait.
  • “I think it is premature to talk about extra sanctions … this depends on what we will hear from our brothers in Kuwait,” the foreign minister said at a press conference with his German counterpart in Abu Dhabi.

12:15pm – German FM sees Gulf standoff as chance to tackle ‘terror finance’

  • German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the entire Gulf region has the opportunity to strengthen the fight against “terrorism funding”.
  • Gabriel is meeting officials in Abu Dhabi, before travelling to Doha to meet Qatar’s foreign minister later on Tuesday.

11:15am – Qatar Petroleum CEO: Company ‘will not be affected’ by crisis

  • The CEO of state-run Qatar Petroleum has said the company “will not be affected by the siege”.
  • Saad al-Kaabi was speaking at a press conference on Tuesday where he announced the company would be increasing its natural gas output by 30 percent by 2024.

7:00am – UK’s May calls for ‘de-escalation’ of GCC crisis in call with Saudi crown prince

  • In a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, British Prime Minister Theresa May urged “all sides” of the ongoing crisis to “take urgent steps to de-escalate the situation and restore [GCC] unity”, her office said in a statement on Monday.
  • The statement also said that the “UK remains committed to supporting this process.”