India Lay Claim to Africa’s Friendship as Adebayo Markets Nigeria
New Delhi: India has openly lay claim to close fraternal friendship with Africa, declaring and promising to be Africa’s most steadfast partner including in defence and maritime security. This was stated by Foreign Minister Dr. S Jaishankar, while addressing the Inaugural Session of the 15th CII – Exim Bank Digital Conclave on India – Africa Project Partnership on Tuesday.
Looking ahead, the Minister stated that cooperation in areas such as defence and security would form a key pillar of the India – Africa partnership. Maritime security, in his view, would be the new frontier.
India kept its supply lines open during the peak of the COVID pandemic and ensured that critical supplies such as medicines and medical equipment reached countries in need in Africa, the Minister recalled.
At the meet Jaishankar gave a detailed overview of the Africa-India engagement. Tracing it from the time of India’s freedom movement and Africa’s striving for liberation from colonialism and discrimination, he outlined how India’s commitment to Africa was represented by four pillars, viz., the development partnership, trade and investment, strong people-to-people ties, particularly in the areas of education and capacity building for young Africans, and, more recently, defence and maritime security.
He reiterated the commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the Ugandan Parliament and stated that Africa remains at the top of India’s priorities and that the partnership with Africa would continue to be guided by Africa’s needs.
To this end, he noted that the Government had already undertaken 194 development projects in 37 countries and 77 more projects in 29 countries were in the pipeline with a total outlay of $ 11.6 billion.
These projects were in the areas of ICT, water, agriculture, infrastructure development among others. He referred to digitalization as being a force multiplier and stated that India’s e-VidyaBharati and e-AarogyaBharati projects were empowering Africans in terms of tele-education and tele-medicine. Similarly, India’s ITEC programme was helping build IT capacity in Africa.
Acknowledging that defence and security cooperation was a key 21st century pillar for India and Africa the Minister recalled India had helped set up Staff and Command colleges in several African countries and had trained thousands of officers and soldiers in Indian military institutions. India’s record in peacekeeping operations in Africa had been appreciated and now maritime security, including in HADR missions, was a new frontier.
Besides traditional partners in Eastern and Southern Africa, Western African states have also sought to deepen defence ties with India including training for its officers and joint defence exercises. India have had defence partnerships with Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia.
Botswana, Uganda, Namibia and Mozambique and is seeking to expand this to include more countries across the vast continent. It may be recalled that in the post-colonial Africa India had assisted to set up military academy in Ethiopia, defence college and Naval war college in Nigeria besides setting up air force in Ghana and training military personnel in number of African countries.
Several Army Chiefs from Nigeria have been trained in India and Delhi is focussing on increasing joint military exercises with the African nations.
The first ever India Africa Defence Ministers Conclave was held this February at Lucknow in conjunction with DEFEXPO INDIA with aim of exporting India made equipment to African continent. Over 154 delegates from Africa including Defence Ministers from 14 African countries, Member of Parliament as well as 19 Defence and Service Chiefs from 38 African countries participated in this Conclave.
Jaishanar further pointed out that Indian industry had also invested in a big way in Africa with investments in consumer goods, automotives and pharmaceuticals among others. He stated that India’s oil and gas companies had invested $ 7 billion in oil exploration in Mozambique and South Sudan. In addition, India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference programme had provided enormous market access to African goods in Indian markets.
He detailed how Indian investment had created jobs and opportunities in African countries in energy, mining, banking, textiles and other sectors. He mentioned India’s welcome to several thousand African students studying for their degrees as well as in short-term courses in a myriad subjects; the Indian-origin communities found across Africa also found mention for their contribution to the African continent’s human capital and the hospitality that Africa had offered them.
The African leaders present at the meet expressed their appreciation for India’s generosity in sharing COVID-related medicines and in dispatching teams of doctors to African nations. Some of the Ministers mentioned in detail the contours of specific projects in their countries that had been set up under Indian grant assistance or under concessional loans extended by the Government of India. They also spoke in warm terms of capacity-building programmes by India for their citizens.
While the African Ministers touched upon the adverse effects of the pandemic, and how it had led to the first recession in years in some of their countries, they also expressed their satisfaction at the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in 2019 and of their aspirations for enhanced trade, employment and investment in their countries by the establishment of a continent-wide market.
Jaishankar also welcomed the coming into force of this important FTA and recalled that it had entered its operational phase following the AU Summit held in Niger in July 2019, several sessions of which had been held in the Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre, a state-of-the-art convention centre built under grant assistance from the Government of India.
Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nigeria highlighted that India was Nigeria’s largest trading partner while Nigeria was India’s largest trading partner in Africa.
He stated that Nigeria was undertaking a series of reforms to promote industrial development such as setting up of a one-stop investment centre, setting up of Special Economic Zones, creating policies to enable the diversification of the economy among others. He invited Indian industry to invest in Nigeria.
Ms Raychelle Awour Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Kenya highlighted the old trading routes taken by dhows between India and Kenya and stated that India-Kenya relations have, for many centuries, been dominated by trade.
She encouraged the private sector in India to invest in Africa’s development. She was of the view that Indian industry could invest in critical areas of Africa’s need such as infrastructure and energy. In her opinion, any investment that is undertaken must help promote jobs for the youth as well as for women. The Cabinet Secretary also stated that newer areas of cooperation such as the blue economy and the financial sector could be explored.
Dr Mohammad Anwar Husnoo, Vice-Prime Minister, Republic of Mauritius stated that Mauritius could help facilitate India’s cooperation with the African Continental Free Trade Area thanks to the India – Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement. He was of the view that some of the areas where Africa and India could cooperate on included pharmaceuticals, digital economy, solar energy and healthcare.
Sylvestre Ilunga, Prime Minister, Democratic Republic of Congo highlighted the changes being brought about in his country to create a more conducive environment for investment especially in areas such as agriculture, agro-industry and tourism among others.
David Rasquinha, Managing Director, Exim Bank of India highlighted the need for India to increase its shareholding in the African Development Bank and get more involved in Africa’s development.
He highlighted the need to augment internal financing mechanisms in Africa and suggested that Indian banks should be allowed to expand their network in Africa as well as be allowed to take stakes in African banks. He suggested that innovative risk mitigation measures need to be augmented so as to allow greater private sector investment in the continent.
Uday Kotak, President, CII stated that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will collapse boundaries further and offers new investment opportunities for Indian industry especially in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture and renewable energy among others.
Source: The Economic Times.)