South Africa calls for national dialogue on social cohesion; African companies emerging as leading investors on the continent; Experts warn over rise in Islamic extremism in Africa; West African leaders discuss situation in North Mali; India and West Afri
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  • According to reports, during a summit on social cohesion, South African President Jacob Zuma called for national dialogue on social cohesion. The "social cohesion summit", the first event of its kind since the end of white minority rule, aims at getting citizens of all races to confront social inequalities and challenges. Zuma clarified that it was through dialogue and reaching out to one another that South Africa was able to produce what is now fondly referred to as the "South African miracle".1

    According to a report on foreign direct investment released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as the U.S. and European companies withdraw from their efforts to bankroll projects across Africa, other African investors are quickly emerging to pick up the task. As per the report, investment between African countries has almost doubled in the past five years, to 13 per cent of new projects started on the continent in 2011. 2

    According to analysts, a rise in Islamic extremism from east to West Africa has led to a surge in deadly attacks and kidnappings by groups linked to Al-Qaeda, sparking fears of a new "arc of terror" on the continent. They further observed that while these groups are mostly occupied with domestic issues, their anti-western rhetoric and targeting of foreigners pose a wider challenge. There is also growing evidence of ties between armed groups from the Sahel and east Africa and Nigeria. According to them, the three main Al Qaeda-linked groups are Somalia's Shebab in the Horn of Africa; Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which is active across the Sahel; and Boko Haram, which has sharply increased its attacks in Nigeria since 2010. 3

    According to reports, during a conference in Burkina Faso on recent developments in Mali, the leaders of West Africa said that the international war crimes court should probe abuses committed in the country's Islamist-held desert north. The leaders also urged Malian civil leaders to secure a national unity government that could address the crisis that hit their country since a March 22 military coup accelerated a northern rebel advance. The leaders also asked for an end to hostilities between all parties in Mali before the Ramadan Muslim month of fasting. However, Mali's president and prime minister were absent at the summit, northern representatives walked out, and supporters of the military coup staged a counter demonstration in Bamako. 4

    Earlier, reports noted that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is willing to send about 3000 troops to Mali to improve the situation. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR), nearly 200,000 people have fled Mali and sought refuge in neighbouring countries, while another 155,000 people have been displaced within Mali itself. 5

    In other developments, according to Adrienne Diop, ECOWAS Commissioner for Gender and Human Development, renewed partnership between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and India is expected to attract much needed foreign direct investment (FDI) into the West African sub-region and create fresh business opportunities for the mutual benefit. Diop opined that strengthening south-south cooperation in the area of trade is a crucial way to speed up development and create jobs. Director for Private Sector of ECOWAS, Alfred Braimah noted that unlocking the huge potential of India for the benefit of West Africa was central to ECOWAS agreeing to enter into partnership. Representing the India side, Ram Prasad, Head of Chancery for the Indian Commission in Nigeria called ECOWAS partnership as an endorsement of the synergy which the south-south cooperation represents. 6