By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI – Laying stress on the importance of Africa-India ties and establishment of Organization of African Unity (OAU), Africa Day was celebrated here last week with emphasis on goals to be achieved in the coming years. Just as in the past, India and Africa have fought against colonialism, they need to establish strong economic ties to emerge victorious in the future. “While celebrating this Africa Day, we should work together to explore new ways of advancing our common objective of establishing a win-win strategic partnership between Africa and India,” Dean of African Diplomatic Corps, Carlos Agostinho Do Rosario, who is also envoy of Mozambique, said.
The significance of Africa Day, which falls on May 25, was highlighted at the press conference held at Egyptian embassy (May 23) with several African leaders giving importance to development of Africa-India ties.
Liberation of Africa from colonialism led to OAU taking shape as African Union, in keeping with the “undergoing changes,” Rosario said. Tracing Africa-India ties to history, he emphasized: “As together, we were victorious yesterday against colonialism, apartheid and injustice of all sorts, today also nothing will prevent us from being victorious against hunger and poverty. Together we will always succeed.”
In this direction, some of the issues that emerging economy of India can contribute in development of Africa, include: – increasing investment in human capital development in Africa; promote technology acquisitions as well as knowledge generation sharing and applications; acceleration of infrastructure development in Africa; enhance economic cooperation, trade and improved market access for African products: and share India’s experience on green revolution for boosting agricultural products to combat hunger and disease in Africa, the African leaders said.
The Africa Day was also celebrated with the release of an annual magazine that focused on the new importance given in the recent years to development of Africa-India relations. In the opinion of Egyptian envoy Mohamed Higazy, who was a key speaker at the press conference: “We need to convert framework of cooperation (between Africa and India) into an action plan in all aspects. The action plan will be able to transform the Africa-India partnership into a dynamic, profitable and fruitful endeavor for the benefit of people.”
Referring specifically to bilateral Egypt-India economic ties, Higazy said: “The exact figure of Indian investment in Egypt is US $2 billion.” Drawing attention to number of projects being submitted by Indian companies in areas such as textiles, petrochemicals, hydrocarbon, steel, plastic, tourism and information technology, he said: “India today is third largest foreign investor in Egypt after United States and Italy. However, by 2010, India shall be number one trading partner of Egypt.”
The first ever India-Africa summit, held last month (April 8-9), adopted Delhi Declaration and Africa-India Framework for Cooperation resolving to “develop jointly” within a year’s time, “a joint plan of action at a continental level and an appropriate follow-up mechanism to implement our Framework for Cooperation.”
In response to a question on new emphasis being suddenly given to India-Africa relations, Rosario described it as part of Africa’s “Look East, Look India policy.” This is linked to India having become a significant player in the global economy. “India’s rapid emergence in global economy raises demand for Africa’s natural resources, which fortunately are available in the African continent, which need to be industrialized for a better contribution in sustainable development of the continent,” Rosario said.
Dismissing speculations of India facing strong competition from China regarding investment in Africa, Rosario said: “We don’t see any negative competition. We need both India and China besides the others to convert the continent’s natural resources into wealth. We need different partnerships. China, India and Brazil among others, are our partners. The competition brings more benefits.”
Earlier, at India-Africa summit, when asked to compare India’s approach towards Africa with that of western powers and China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh replied: “India’s renewed focus on Africa has nothing to do with China’s growing clout in the continent. We are not in any race or competition with China or any other country. The desire of India and Africa to work together is not new.”
Asserting that India-Africa summit has laid foundations, the Indian premier said that it is now time to plan ahead to implement the joint programs of cooperation and to build a meaningful and productive Indo-African partnership.
Emphasis was laid on India and Africa working together with a new momentum at last week’s press conference. Quoting the importance given by India’s first prime minister, late Jawaharlal Nehru to developing strong ties with Africa, Rosario said: “In his words, ‘though separated by the Indian Ocean, Africa is in a sense our next door neighbor.”
The African leaders expressed satisfaction with several measures announced by Indian government to strengthen ties with Africa. These include preferential market access to 34 least developed African countries, more than doubling to $5.4 billion the lines of credit over the next five years and increasing the ‘Aid to Africa’ budget by investing over half a billion dollars in capacity building and human resource development projects. Among other key measures are more scholarships for African students wishing to study in India.
“We are very happy for now. All these decisions will be implemented by the Indian government in this financial year,” Rosario said. Expressing optimism on strengthening Africa-India partnership, he said: “I look forward for a bright future of a strong Indo-Africa Partnership in this 21st century and together we will make a difference.”