The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and Its Activities in African Countries, 1961-2010

By Turki, Benyan | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and Its Activities in African Countries, 1961-2010


Turki, Benyan, The Middle East Journal


This article aims to highlight the impact of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) on Kuwait's foreign relations, especially with African countries. For more than five decades, KFAED has strengthened Kuwait's ties to the developing world and secured political support throughout various crises, particularly the Iraqi invasion of 1990. The article sheds light specifically on the nature, extent, and scope of KFAED activities in Africa. Secondly, the article shows how the fund has helped numerous African countries in various economic aspects as well as contributing to social development.

Though considered a developing country, Kuwait is a leading contributor of foreign economic aid, especially on the African continent. Kuwait's aid projects are not limited to Africa, however; they have significantly evolved since its independence from British rule in 1961, to include many countries in various parts of the world.1 The Kuwaiti government's foreign aid policy goes beyond disaster relief; it also includes active and steady contributions to economic development.2 In this respect, Kuwait's aid to African countries is deeply rooted in historical relationships between Kuwait and Africa that developed over centuries of sustained economic and political contact.3

This article highlights the impact of Kuwait's foreign economic aid on its foreign relationships, especially with Africa. The article also analyzes the aid and support provided by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) to selected African countries. Considering the complexity and extent of the topic, this study on KFAED's activities is limited to a cross section of countries that represent different African regions. The categories of African countries chosen for analysis include Arab, Muslim, non-Muslim, and non-Arab African nations to illustrate the nature, extent, and scope of KFAED's activities and to discuss the main regions where its efforts have been concentrated. The four countries chosen to represent each of the abovementioned identities are the Kingdom of Morocco, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Senegal, and the Republic of Mozambique.

Morocco is a North African Arab country with strong relations with Kuwait. Tan- zania is an East African country, with which Kuwait has a long history of political and economic ties. Senegal is a West African country whose relationship developed signifi- cantly with Kuwait over the last four decades. Kuwait established a relationship with Mozambique only in the 1980s.

KUWAIT-AFRICA RELATIONS PRIOR TO KFAED'S ESTABLISHMENT

Similar to other Gulf countries, Kuwait shares a common religion, language, and values with many of Africa's Arab and Muslim-majority countries. Kuwait's strategic location on the Gulf makes it one of the key trading centers in the Middle East. Histori- cally, Kuwait has been a main hub on caravan routes linking Baghdad, Aleppo, and Najd and was an important port for trade ships from Asia and Africa. Thus, Kuwait's overseas trading relationships spread to East Africa, which became a prime destination for Kuwait's navigators and ships, developing and strengthening ties between peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, and East Africa in particular.4 For many centu- ries, the eastern coast of Africa served as a key passage for Arab migration to Africa, spreading Arab and Islamic influence through the region. Indeed, the area of influence stretches from Cape Guardafui in present-day Somalia in the north to Cape Delgado in present-day Mozambique in the south, a region known to medieval Arab geographers as barr al-Zanj - land of the Zanj (Black Africans) - or Zanzibar.5

Kuwait has a particular link with the sea and maritime trade due to its location on the coast. Since ancient times, the people of what is today Kuwait traded pearls, and had highly developed fishing and ship-building industries. By the dawn of the 20th century, Kuwait's trade significantly expanded with the introduction of a proac- tive independent customs policy, the improvement of its port infrastructure, and the lowering of customs duties. …

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