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Africa's 53 states and South America's 12 plan to deepen their alliances by cooperating in various areas of mutual interest, including science and technology.

The plan was agreed yesterday (29 November) by heads of state who met at the first Africa-South America Summit, held in Abuja, Nigeria this week.

In a speech to the ministerial meeting, Joy Ogwu, Nigeria's foreign minister, called the cooperation an "alliance for progress" aimed at "forming a formidable bloc capable of narrowing difference and forging consensus on matters of global concern".

The countries will increase cooperation in science and technology, and in agriculture and agribusiness, water resources and the environment, energy, natural resources, education, and information and communication technology.

For this they will carry out joint research projects, knowledge and technology transfer, exchanges of scientists and technical experts, and organise joint workshops, symposia and conferences.

In health, a key area for cooperation will be communicable diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, as well as developing and sharing medical expertise, resources and experience.

The summit was organised by the South American Community of Nations (SACN) and the African Union, and follows a previous SACN move to boost science cooperation between South American and Arab nations in May 2005 (see 'Arab and South American nations to share science').

Nagib Nassar, an Egyptian-born scientist who moved to Brazil in 1974, said enhancing and consolidating south-south cooperation will reap mutual benefits.

He said exchanging plant genetic resources will greatly help to increase production and overcome problems of diseases and pests.

"Brazil is the origin and centre of diversity of many crops cultivated in large areas of Africa such as cassava, and it is the major producer of crops that originated in Africa such as coffee," said Nassar, a professor of genetics at the University of Brasilia, Brazil.

He also stressed the value of student and researcher exchanges to boost knowledge development. For example Egyptian research, which is strong in agriculture, could learn from Brazil, which is strong in biology and tropical diseases, and vice versa.

"This new South-South partnership shows a new emerging trend within the developing world to engage in sustainable knowledge-based economic development," said Rodomiro Ortiz, who directs resource mobilisation at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

Ortiz, who was formerly director of research for development at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, said the plans should be impact-orientated and seek input from all stakeholders through a participatory process.

The second Africa-South America Summit will take place in Venezuela in 2009.

Abuja declaration  [1.28MB]
Abuja resolution on Africa-South America Cooperative Forum  [137KB]