A continent crying out for a deal

Swazi officials in red-robed traditional attire are accompanied by their attentive Kuwaiti counterparts in flowing white thobes and headdresses.

With images like this, the Afro Arab summit in this oil rich city state might be a picture-perfect event were it not for the black-suited security thugs. They have apparently been left out of the loop by the gracious host officials chaperoning dozens of invited journalists.

So careful are our minders, they cancelled a trip to the souk because a light rain, not severe enough to stop a cricket match, had started falling.

The goons however treat both officials and their guests with uniform, brutish disdain in their quest to get us out of the way as speedily as possible so their leaders can deliberate unrecorded.

Back at the swish media centre, journalists sitting at the banks of box-fresh laptops are served water, alcohol-free drinks, tea and cardamom-infused coffee by teams of waiters.

For those of us from ABC, BBC, CNN, DPA and EWN this is just plain OTT.

Journalists covering the two previous Afro Arab summits in Cairo 16 years ago and in Sirte in 2010, would never have been accorded this treatment.

Looking back at pictures of the Libyan meeting that was tacked onto an Arab League summit, it is hard to believe it was only three years ago. They show Muammar Gadaffi, Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali smiling broadly, oblivious of the fact they were months away of being washed away by the hard rains of the Arab Spring.

Nevertheless, their declarations about the need for greater economic cooperation between the 1.2 billion people of the two regions have not devalued. Indeed their polemical currency has increased.

Fully 70% of Arabs are from Africa.

The $2 trillion reserves held by Gulf states, enjoying a boom in oil prices, is diverted mainly to the United States and Europe.

Africa, which is showing better growth - 5% last year, 4,8% this year and 5,1% projected for next year by the World Bank - offers a more profitable destination.

It has 12% of the planet's oil reserves and 42% of its gold.

The continent that - again according to the World Bank - needs $30 billion invested in energy and power is crying out for a deal.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is EWN's Africa correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish