‘India ready to partner Africa in march forward’

New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) India, with its non-exploitative approach based on dialogue in its dealings with Africa, is prepared to be a partner with the continent in its march forward towards governance, democracy and prosperity, in keeping with the Africa Agenda 2063 goals adopted earlier this year, said a top official here on Thursday ahead of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit later this month.

Navtej Sarna, Secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry, said that India’s approach in dealing with Africa has also to be flexible, in keeping with the diversities in that continent, which has some of the fastest growing nations coupled with those that are poor, different ethnicities, geographies among other things.

Addressing a pre-IAFS III conference on ‘India-Africa in the 21st century: Scale and Scope of Comprehensive Partnership’, Sarna also pointed out the commonalities between India and Africa, including that they together comprise one third of the global population at 2.3 billion.

He said that India has been a “brother in arms” with Africa in its struggle against colonialism, apartheid, and discrimination in the past decades “and is now prepared to be a partner in its march toward governance, democracy, and prosperity in the most modern terms”.

Sarna said that “India has neither a prescriptive approach not an exploitative approach” in its dealings with Africa, but one which is based on “on dialogue with partners”.

He said India’s engagement with Africa on the IAFS platform is “in response to the needs and abilities of a resurgent Africa”. He said the summit forum structure could work to Africa’s needs and has shown “impressive results”.

He pointed to the “creation of appropriate infrastructure” by India in Africa, which he said is cheaper than in other parts of the world.

He also pointed to the $7.5 billion of concessional credit allocated by India during the past two summits, which he said has been “very useful”. He said of it most of the amount had been used across 137 projects in 41 countries.

Sarna also pointed to capacity building, which he said has been the focus of India’s engagement with Africa. India has trained 15,000 African people in India between the first summit in 2008 and the second one in 2011. The number has increased vastly, with 25,000 Africans being trained since the 2011 summit – either at institutions in India or via the tele-link, which connects 48 African countries with Indian hospitals and institutions, said Sarna at the talk organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs.

He said there is need to take forward the engagement, including through building up the economic and trading links. India’s trade with Africa stands at $70 billion, with $30 billion worth of Indian investments.

Sarna said that peace and security, counter-terrorism, maritime security, hydrography and development of the Blue Economy were areas in which both sides could work.

Gennet Zewide, dean of the African Diplomatic Corps and the ambassador of Ethiopia, said that Africa is emerging as a force in the world and since 2008, when the world’s economy was in slowdown, Africa has on average registered 5 percent growth.

She said Africa has abundant natural resources, vast tracts of very fertile land for agriculture – all of which are factors prompting the world to approach Africa.

She pointed to the Lines of Credit by India, which she said was very important but added that India’s contribution towards capacity building was even more so.

Zewide said India’s contribution towards human resource development and capacity building were very useful and that many projects had taken off but added that some were yet to take off.

She hoped the upcoming summit from October 26-30 would deliver on the projects not yet implemented from the earlier two summits.

She also said that Africa seeks more economic linkages with India, and “we want to encourage Indian businesspersons to come to Africa and manufacture and create job opportunities for our people”.

Nalin Surie, the chairperson of ICWA, said that India has always had a “needs based approach” in its dealings with Africa. “It is a relation of equals”, in which India contributes majorly to human resource development. He also said that the IAFS forum would prove useful in keeping the goals of the Africa Agenda 2063 in mind.

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