The Swiss city of Lugano is to host the permanent European headquarters of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).
The announcement came during a one-day summit in Lugano attended by African heads of state and European business leaders.
Security was tight around the city's main conference hall, where delegates from a total of 16 African countries - including Zambia, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Mali and South Africa - held talks with around 400 members of the European business community.
A day-long series of discussions and seminars was designed to foster closer ties between European business leaders and those in charge of promoting economic development on the African continent.
Saturday's meeting was the first of its kind since Nepad was established in 2001 to help promote economic growth and development in Africa.
Alberto Michelini, representative of the Italian government at the event, called on corporate executives to invest more in Africa.
"European companies need to have the courage to invest in Africa: there is now a plan of action and they need to seize the opportunity," Michelini said during a speech to conference delegates.
The mayor of Lugano, Giorgio Giudici, used a keynote address at the start of the conference to announce that the city - located in Switzerland's only Italian-speaking canton, Ticino - had been selected to become the permanent base of Nepad.
Giancarlo Fenini, who represented the Swiss foreign ministry at the conference, said he had not been aware that Lugano would become a base for Nepad.
"The foreign ministry had no knowledge of the idea of Nepad setting up a base in Lugano," Fenini said, "but we welcome this move as indeed everything else to help put into practice Nepad's projects."
Nepad - which is calling for a reduction by half of poverty in Africa by 2015 - wants Africa to seek partnership with the rest of the industrialised world and to become better integrated in the global economy.
Officials in Lugano said they hoped the conference would become an annual event, and that the city would develop into an important point of reference for companies looking to do business in Africa.
"It is an honour for Switzerland, as 190th member of the United Nations, to host the European headquarters of Nepad," said Swiss parliamentarian, Filippo Lombardi.
swissinfo with agencies
The Swiss city of Lugano is to become the European base for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).
The decision was announced at the Lugano African Conference on Saturday.
The conference was attended by heads of state and representatives of 16 African countries as well as 400 European business leaders.
The aim of the event was to mobilise foreign capital to aid development on the African continent.