In English

Africa, South America pledge new era of cooperation

Leaders representing more than 60 African and South American countries – including Togo President, Faure Gnassingbe - signed agreements at a summit here aimed at creating a new regional financial system for the two continents to gain more clout and boost development.

The second South America-Africa summit, hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, featured several national leaders including Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.The event, which ended Sunday, reaffirmed the resolve of the participants to establish a South-South union that would give member countries a greater voice in multilateral organizations and boost bi-regional cooperation in areas such as finance, energy, environment, technology and health.

"A new stage of the history of South America and Africa takes off here," said Chavez, who led calls at the meeting of nearly 30 heads of state and representatives of 30 other countries for improved ties between the two regions.

The final declaration called for economic relations based on "cooperation and solidarity" to "strengthen the overall development" of the people.

Among the financial initiatives, seven South American countries late Saturday signed an agreement creating the Bank of the South, designed to finance joint projects between African and South American countries, with a startup capital of 20 billion dollars.

The plan also aims to give the regions a greater voice at international organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

For Brazil's Lula, the summit proves "that it is possible to change the world's political, economic and commercial geography."

The 21st century "can be the century for Africa and Latin America," he said. "That is possible as long as we are clear that this will depend more on the decisions we take than on the dreams of external aid that never arrived."

Reform of world bodies like the United Nations loomed large at the summit, with Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo calling for a "new world order" and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa decrying a "grossly unjust world order."

Speaking during the closing hours of the two-day summit held on Venezuela's scenic Isla Margarita resort, Correa called for countries to negotiate a regional and bi-regional monetary agreement "to coordinate our policies and prevent the crisis from deepening in our countries."

The first South America-Africa summit was held in Abuja, Nigeria, and the next meeting, is scheduled for 2011 in Libya.

Kadhafi on Saturday called for the creation of a "NATO of the South" by 2011 to counter the military bloc of the United States and European powers.

Chavez was especially effusive about his "brother" Kadhafi, confessing great "admiration" for the leader who was marking his first visit to Latin America since he came to power 40 years ago.

Chavez, whose country is the top Latin American exporter of crude oil, proposed launching a public multinational company he dubbed "Petrosur" that would supply fuel to both regions.

Energy cooperation between the two regions, which are home to 24 percent of the world's oil and top oil producers like Venezuela and Nigeria, was a key theme at the meet.

At the summit Venezuela signed eight joint venture energy agreements with African nations, including South Africa, Sudan and Cape Verde, said Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez.

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