Francia Márquez in Africa: what is the importance of the trip for Colombian interests?

At LatinAmerican Post we analyzed the positive aspects that Francia Márquez’s trip to Africa would bring to Colombia. Economy, science, and culture are some of the sectors that benefit the most, in addition to strengthening South-South cooperation .

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

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Leer en español: Francia Márquez en África: ¿cuál es la importancia del viaje para los intereses colombianos?

On May 10, the Vice President of Colombia, Francia Márquez, began a trip that will take her to various African countries such as Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia. According to the Colombian Government, the second in command of the Executive would be in the African continent for around eight days.

Now, since the country became aware of Márquez’s agenda, criticism has not been long in coming, with various opposition factions (especially Uribismo) rejecting the trip and the expenses that it would represent. “Continue the waste of Francia Márquez: Just the fuel for her trip to Africa will cost us Colombians almost 1,700 million pesos (372 thousand dollars)! Not counting other expenses. Meanwhile, the lives of Colombians are becoming more and more expensive!” wrote the representative to the Chamber for the Democratic Center, Hernán Cadavid on his Twitter account.

And although the expenses are certain, the Government and some experts consider that Márquez’s trip is not a “whim” but a ” historic debt” with a continent from which several of the roots of the current Colombian culture were born. This was stated by the vice president since last year during a United Nations conference , in which she highlighted the importance of said organization taking “concrete actions of historical reparation that contribute to transforming colonial systems.”

You can also read: Gustavo Petro and Spain: laying new foundations with Latin America

A “golden” opportunity

Beyond the cultural, historical, and social symbolism, the truth is that the Colombian delegation has a clear objective that, according to the Foreign Ministry itself, is essential for Colombia: the opening of new trade agreements with the countries of that region.

“It is an unprecedented approach to Africa, which will include the African Union, the African Development Bank, the Africa-South America Summit, and the opening of new embassies on the African continent,” explained Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva. For her part, Francia Márquez also came out in defense of her trip, recalling that “ 12 simultaneous agendas will be carried out with concrete results in each country. We will represent with dignity the interests and challenges that unite us as humanity. Colombia will continue building a strategic relationship so that South-South cooperation becomes a reality”.

It should be remembered that ‘South-South Cooperation’ is a “technical cooperation between developing countries, which are located mostly in the South of the planet”, as explained by the UN through its website.

Although Africa is part of that sector of “developing” societies, the truth is that the image that many Colombians have of it does not correspond to the current reality of the continent. Countries like the United States, India, Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, as well as a large part of Europe, have seen Africa as a valuable ally. Its stabilization, democratization, and economic development process make it an attractive continent for any government, including the Colombian one.

For this reason, Márquez’s trip is not unreasonable, since he seeks, precisely, to create an exchange of knowledge, skills, and successful initiatives in various areas, such as agriculture, human rights, urbanization, health, and climate change, which They are so important in the political agenda of President Gustavo Petro.

Food and energy powerhouses

Due to the crisis experienced by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical clashes, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, African governments have agreed to produce a regionalization of trade and an industrialization process. This is to boost their production instead of importing finished products and thus rely less on foreign resources.

It is there where, for example, Ethiopia, one of the countries that Francia Márquez will attend, shows itself to be a key player in Colombian interests. Ethiopians have been able to become one of the most important food and agricultural powers of their continent. For five years, this country has been developing a new heat-resistant wheat variety with the help of relevant development banks. This new type of wheat allowed the country to increase production by around 5,000 hectares, which has allowed it to become a net exporter of this cereal, according to the executive director of Business Development of the World Trade Center Association (WTCA), Robin van Puyenbrock.

For its part, Kenya, a country that is also part of the Colombian delegation’s trip, has established itself as one of the most crucial countries in terms of renewable energy. Kenyans enjoy an energy that is born, almost entirely, from geothermal energy. “If we look at that, then the physical infrastructure can come into place to build interconnectors between countries. When countries become an exporter of good products, they can become an energy exporter of renewable energy. These things can only be brought to life if the physical infrastructures are in place to make training happen,” Van Puyenbrock said a conversation with Forbes magazine.

An ancient brotherhood

Finally, it is important to mention that to have what Márquez defined as “a horizontal relationship where we see each other as allies to strengthen each other” and take advantage of scientific and commercial knowledge, it is important to strengthen diplomatic ties between Colombia and that continent. For this reason, one of the initiatives (as we mentioned above) is to try to open new embassies in African territory and thus resume relations that have been broken for more than 25 years.

“Conservative governments have become overly aligned with Europe and the US and left the global south. This is a campaign promise that must be fulfilled taking advantage of Francia Márquez’s natural dialogue with Africa. She has been in Cuba meeting with African ambassadors and the convening capacity she has is impressive, so Colombia is taking advantage of that, as well as the presence of Luis Gilberto Murillo in the US,” explained the president of the National Association of Foreign Trade ( Analdex).

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