Magazine article New African

'No Development without Strong Diplomacy': Sameh Shoukry-Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs

Magazine article New African

'No Development without Strong Diplomacy': Sameh Shoukry-Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs

Article excerpt

Over the past two years, Egypt has supercharged its foreign policy agenda. Seen as an ally of the West and a key player in the Middle East, it is the biggest country in the Arab world, overseeing one of the most important waterways, the Suez Canal. Over this period there has been a definite rapprochement with its African neighbours. At the centre of all this has been Sameh Shoukry (pictured right), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

How do you see the role of diplomacy in terms of economic development?

To a great extent, the focus of diplomacy now is on issues related to development and how to create the best conditions in regard to taking advantage of productive political relations to provide an economic return for both sides.

This is how modern diplomacy is geared to respond to the actual, practical needs of people in relation to development, in relation to creating employment opportunities and greater investment volumes.

All this is certainly facilitated by a productive political relationship that can produce and generate momentum and the developmental side of any bilateral relationship and multi-lateral relationships, for that matter.

Some say there has been a shift in the global balance of power from the West to the East. How does this affect your interactions with other countries?

We hope it will create greater competitiveness between the West and the East, thereby benefitting the developing world in attracting more investments and more synergies that can be productive for our developmental objectives especially in the African continent.

We have been disadvantaged by a long history of our resources being taken out of Africa for the benefit of development in other parts of the world. It's about time that some of these past debts are paid up, that there is greater involvement and there is a potential of mutual gain.

It's not a one-way street, it can be rewarding, but there has to be greater commitment. It should not solely be a matter of lip service to Africa's developmental objectives and the occasional visit here and there, after which we return to a lack of true engagement.

In view of this, would you say there should be a greater emphasis on South-South relationships?

South-South is important and I think it can generate growth and development because of the interdependency and complementarity between many in the South and their ability to take advantage of that complementarity.

But there has to also be a North-South relationship because of the capabilities in the North and the need to create a deeper degree of justice in the distribution of abilities and resources.

While emerging markets are opening up their economies, we are seeing a rise in protectionism in the US and possibly in certain countries in Europe, does that worry you?

Well, it worries me because it is not consistent with policies that have been advocated for a long time. But now it seems that it isn't a matter of principle, as much as it is a matter of expediency. And it is difficult to operate on shifting sands when it comes to national relations, both political and economic.

As information technology has created a smaller, more interdependent and more interactive world, we should all have to operate on the basis of fixed and recognised standards.

How would you describe Egypt as an African partner and in terms of reaching out to your close friends in the Arab world? …

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