The relations with Sub-Saharan Africa play a pivotal role in Portuguese foreign policy. The importance of this relationship results not only from the historical and cultural ties with the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, but from an intense political and economic relationship with these and other countries and with multilateral organizations operating in the African continent.
Currently, Portugal has 15 resident diplomatic and consular representations (12 Embassies and 3 Consulates-General) in 12 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Portugal is also an Observer of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose dynamics it is able to follow thanks to Embassies in Addis Ababa and Abuja, respectively.
The commercial flows between Portugal and the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa account for a relevant proportion of the national trade balance, as well as of the investment dynamics, and there is also a very significant number of Portuguese companies with a successful presence in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, in the most varied sectors. As a regional block, the African continent is the second largest destination of Portuguese exports, right after the EU.
Portugal is also commited to a very significant cooperation for the development of a number of areas, with particular emphasis on health and education, but also in the area of security (from an integrated perspective that brings together areas of sovereignty such as Internal Security, Justice and Defence), especially in Portuguese-speaking African countries.
In addition to strengthening bilateral relations with Sub-Saharan African countries, Portugal also invests in the development of closer relations between the EU and Africa. It was on Portugal's initiative that the 1st Africa-Europe Summit was held in Cairo, in 2000, marking a new stage in the relations between the two regional blocks, favouring a balanced political and economic relationship, to the detriment of the prevailing welfare-based approach.
Portugal continues to support the strengthening of this relationship, based on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, adopted in Lisbon in 2007, at the 2nd EU-Africa Summit, during the Portuguese EU Presidency. Today, this Joint Strategy is as relevant as ever and continues to provide a reference framework for the relationship between the EU and its Member States and the African continent.
Portugal is also closely following and actively participating in the discussions on Africa within the framework of the UN, both in terms of cooperation for development and at the level of the Security Council and the General Assembly. These include discussions about specific countries and cross-cutting issues such as peace and security. As in other fora, we support the development and strengthening of African capabilities, as well as the dynamics of regional and continental integration.
The deterioration of maritime safety in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the main axes of international maritime trade, has made it a priority for several multilateral, global and regional organizations. Portugal has been taking a leading role in this debate, not only because it is a global problem with a major impact, but also because the region comprises several countries with which Portugal has very close relations. In this regard, Portugal has been supporting initiatives that promote the ownership and empowerment of African players at all levels.