Relations between the African continent and the Arab world exist from time immemorial. They are deeply rooted in history, geography and culture. Besides the constant waves of intra Afro-Arab migration from ancient times, this unique relationship was reinforced by trade relations and the spread of Islam and the Arabic language (the language of the Holy Quran) from the North and East to the continent. This explains the common cultural heritage and the ubiquitous influence of the Islamic civilization on Africa.
No wonder, African and Arab leaders are resolved to maintain and develop this historic relationship. At the first Afro-Arab Summit in Cairo in March, 1977, both parties expressed their determination to strengthen mutual cooperation in all fields. The Afro-Arab Cultural Institute is an expression of their joint will. It was founded in 2002 with the aim of expanding and deepening Afro – Arab cultural relations. It is a non-profit making institution co-funded by the African Union and the League of Arab States and is based in Bamako, the Republic of Mali. It has an executive Council on which African and Arab governments and institutions are represented. The director general is chosen from an Arab country, and his deputy from an African country. The Institute strives to correct the misperceptions and erroneous stereotyping resulting from the colonial period and to deepen mutual understanding between the Arab and African peoples. The Institute’s activities include organizing workshops, seminars, conferences, training courses, exhibitions, sports events, printing and publishing books and other cultural material.
The Institute is to be re-structured to include strategic research and studies with the aim of transforming it into a think tank and an advisory body for both the League of Arab states (LAS) and the African Union (AU) in addition to its original role. However, the restructuring process has not yet been completed. According to the Afro-Arab Cooperation Strategy Guidelines for the coming thirty years, the Institute is to play a leading role in the field of cultural cooperation and the implementation of AU/LAS resolutions.
The Institute receives its annual budget from the Arab League and the African Union. It also welcomes donations from governments, private organizations and individuals.
The Institute has a several projects pending in 2012, including the establishment of an Afro – Arab Festival to be held every two years in an Arab and an African country alternately , a seminar on the problems facing Arab and African migrant women in the West and the effects of emigration on female migrants , their families and cultural identity, and preparing Volume 11 of the book on African manuscripts using Arabic script for publication . The first volume was published in 2005.