SME Times News Bureau | 17 Sep, 2015
India and Africa, with a combined population of 2.3
billion and very old civilisational ties, are looking at deeper political and
economic engagement and the upcoming India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) next
month would see many fresh ideas thrown up, said a top official on Wednesday.
Navtej Sarna, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, also said
that India and Africa have a "collaborative partnership", which
distinguishes it from the ties between Africa and other nations.
Addressing the inaugural session of 'National Consultation on India-Africa
Partnership: Priorities and Prospects', Sarna said that India and Africa are
looking at "a very tangible political and economic engagement, which keeps
in view several facts", including that together both comprise one-third of
the world population.
Sarna said the 54 countries of Africa, each have their own peculiarities, their
aspirations and ambitions. He said the continent is set on a path of
development, governance, democracy, of empowerment, education and improving
health standards, which is encapsulated in Agenda 2063, which was adopted by
the members of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January this
While Africa has less population than India, it has 10 times the land mass. "Africa
has huge arable land", which needs agricultural technology and
cooperation, said Sarna. Africa also has great potential for blue economy with
its 26,000 km of coastline, besides the scope for maritime and security
He said India is only seven years old in its partnership with Africa in the
IAFS format, which began in 2008, while Japan, the EU and China have two
decades old partnership with the continent. India has invited all the 54
African countries for the mega summit in New Delhi October 26-29, in the
largest such diplomatic engagement in recent years.
He said India's strengths in partnering with Africa lie in the area of capacity
building and training and scholarships. Since the second IAFS in 2011, India
has given 25,000 scholarships to African countries, "which gives
tremendous satisfaction" to those imparted the training.
Sarna said India has had "less successful institution building" with
regard to Africa, with many institutions on the anvil, but with many not
complete. But he said "the nature of the collaborative partnership"
with Africa is important. "India never says that we are setting up this
institute, in this African country; here is the money, here the institute, run
it. This is what distinguishes ourself from others," Sarna said, adding
that the African countries feel "a vested interest" in the
institution, a sense of ownership.
On the subject of concessional credit provided by India, Sarna said it was "more
successful than perceived". He said India offered $7.4 billion in the past
two forums and of this $7 billion has been approved. There are 140 projects
happening over 41 countries, and "seen across the board, this is very
He said in order to take the partnership forward, India is "deep in
engagement with African heads of missions" and "trying to understand
each aspect of engagement better". He said this has been put into draft
documents, which has been sent to negotiators in Addis Ababa. Later the two
sides would sit together to plan out the framework of the summit and
declaration and a joint action plan will be worked out.
The summit would see "departures from past" with both sides
"coming out with fresh ideas", he added.
The consultation was organised by think tanks, Research and Information System
for Developing Countries (RIS) in collaboration with Institute of Defence
Studies and Analysis (IDSA), Brookings India and and Confederation of Indian
Industry (CII) at the India Habitat Centre.