The group of African ambassadors, heads of missions and honorary consuls in the Republic of Bulgaria organized in cooperation with the Sofia University "St. KlimentOhridski " a conference themed: "Bulgaria-Africa, 21st century and beyond".

The event, dedicated to the Day of Africa, was held under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Rumen Radev.The invitation was accepted by Mrs. IliyanaYotova, the Vice President, Mr. Todor Stoyanov, vice-minister of foreign affairs, ambassadors, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the scientific community and the media who came to Aula Magna.

The embassies of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan, South Africa and the Honorary Consulates of Guinea, Ecuadorian Guinea, Kenya, the Seychelles and Uganda were also included in the organization of the forum.

At the opening, Professor Maria Stoycheva, a rector of the Sofia University, welcomed the guests to celebrate the Day of Africa in "the most beautiful hall in Bulgaria - the Aula of the University". She reminded that over the years the university has played an important role in the development of the educational and cultural relations between Bulgaria and the African countries.

A greeting address by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rumen Radev, to the participants in the conference was read by his foreign policy adviser MrsVeronika Orbetsova. "Today, when we are faced with a number of global challenges, including climate change, increased migration, terrorism and extremism, cooperation among people gains new meaning. Building bridges between people, nations and states is the only way forward and celebrating Africa Day is an expression of this ideal", he said.

The participants in the conference were also welcomed by Mr. Todor Stoyanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.

As the Doyen of the Group of Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls of the African States in the Republic of Bulgaria H. E. Ms. Manal El Shinnawi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt, gave a solemn speech:

Today, 25th of May, it is a great privilege for us to celebrate Africa Day, which is the commemoration of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union, proudly considered Africa Day. Africa Day demonstrates our common commitment to unity and solidarity and to working together towards the prosperity of African peoples and nations.

The African group in Sofia used to celebrate the event with a cultural festivity. But this year we thought of a new idea, which expresses the African identity and solidarity and our common work towards the Africa we Want, and at the same time opens prospects  for  more cooperation between our African countries and the Republic of Bulgaria at different levels. Thus came the idea of the Conference today to present opportunities for cooperation introducing in this context different topics such as economy, energy issues and educational exchange.

Throughout  the years, the African Union demonstrated the common aspirations and visions of the African countries and people. These aspirations were envisioned lately in the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, which is a strategic framework for the socioeconomic project of the continent for the next 50 years. It also builds on past and continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.

The guiding vision of the African Union Agenda 2063 is an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens and presenting a dynamic force in the international arena. Thus a Prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance, an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law will florish. We strive for a peaceful and secure Africa, with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics, an Africa whose development is people driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth, an Africa as a strong, united, and global player and partner.

Africa is the second most populated continent with more than 1.l billion people. Close to 70% of Africa’s population are aged below 25, a fact that constitutes a big asset to the continent. Africa has the highest population growth in the world, as it is expected that by the end of the century, the population would reach around 4 billion.

With its huge mineral resources, energy sources, fertile lands, booming projects, Africa is a land of opportunities for investments and partnerships. Many African countries have shown positive and sustained growth resulting from sound macroeconomic policies and strategies.

In 2016 the theme of the African Union was human rights with particular focus on the rights of women. Since the year 2000, Africa has witnessed a tremendous growth in women’s representation in high ranking positions - presidents, ministers and in parliament.

This year 2017 the theme of the African Union is "Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth". In fact, investments today in the youth who present Africa’s greatest asset, is a big factor for Africa s development projects over the next 50 years. Over the last ten years it has become evident that the demographic dividend offers a strategic basis for focusing and prioritizing investments in people in general and youth in particular in order to build a prosperous and peaceful Africa. The African Union Agenda 2063 forsees the contribution of African youth in entrepreneurship, in innovation and that the creativity, energy, and innovation of Africa s youth will be the driving force behind Africa s transformation.

It is important to note the necessary cooperation between African countries and their international partners, mainly the European Union, because of the historical, cultural and geographical ties.

Challenges that face the world now as human trafficking, migration, security challenges, all call for more cooperation between Africa and Europe. Economic opportunities and investment projects are also very important.

The first Africa EU Summit was held in Cairo in 2000 where the Africa- EU partnership framework was established.

The fourth Summit was held in Brussels in 2014 and was under the theme 'Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace'. Topics included education, women and youth, legal and illegal migration, job creation, investing in peace and security.

The next EU-Africa Summit is scheduled to take place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in November this year, with aspirations to further strengthen partnership to address common challenges as well as opportunities.

There are many opportunities for cooperation between both continents in agriculture, industry, investments, renewable energy, youth and education.

The historical relations between African countries and the Republic of Bulgaria and the fact that many Bulgarian experts used to be in African countries over the past decades encourage us to push forward more cooperation in different fields: economy, tourism - especially with the variety and diversity of  touristic opportunities in Africa from North to South, East to West, trade and commerce, culture, and its worth to note the colorful and diversified African culture, history, security, education- exchange of youth, all are factors to build up partnerships between our African countries and the Republic of Bulgaria.

We look forward for parliamentary cooperation, friendship groups and cooperation at different levels and fields.                     

We believe that one of our most important roles as African missions and honorary consulates is to promote Africa with its huge capabilities and opportunities for cooperation, investments and partnerships to the Bulgarian society. Thus comes our Conference today. It is necessary for African countries and partners to continue partnerships for sustainable development,  security, peace and prosperity and for the benefit of our peoples...

The conference continued with a number of interesting reports on different themes of cooperation between Bulgaria and Africa and the opportunities for its development in the future. Mr. Tsvetan Simeonov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke on the topic "Economic Opportunities in Africa", Prof. MarcellinYovogan from the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" talked about the prospects for sustainable development of African economies in a globalized world. Prof. Dinko Dinkov from the University of National and World Economy presented a report - "Cooperation between the European Union and African countries: necessity, opportunities and the role of educational exchange to meet the challenges". Assoc. Prof. Svetla Boneva from the same university presented the "European Energy Union and the Opportunities for Cooperation between Europe and Africa", and Prof. Dimitar Dimitrov made "a briefing on the Master's Degree Program in Nuclear Safety".

The forum ended with the statement of Dr. Elena Tsenkova from the Department of Education of the Sofia University. She made a brief presentation of the Bachelor's and Master's programs for foreign students, calling on young people from Africa to come and receive their higher education in Bulgaria. More details about the possibilities offered by the oldest higher educational institution in Bulgaria, founded in 1888, in the field of law, humanities and natural sciences, medical and technical specialties, can be read HERE.

After the conference, each of the guests had the opportunity to see the exhibition stands of the various African countries in the foyer of Aula Magna. Brochures of cultural attractions and interesting tourist destinations on the African continent, national souvenirs and other items were arranged. Each of the guests could also taste the traditional dishes and wines of the participating countries.

Photos: "Diplomatic Spectrum" and Embassies of African Countries.