Today is indeed a historic occasion. We are organizing “Africa Day” for the first time during Vibrant Gujarat Summit. This is the first time that we are dedicating a day to an entire continent. This is a clear recognition of the enhanced importance we attach to the place of African economies in the development and growth map of the contemporary world.
I am particularly happy that this historic day is being celebrated on the soil of Gujarat. Just as Gujarat was the State which gave us Mohandas Gandhi, Africa was the continent which gave India the Mahatma. The occasion is also significant as it is being held during 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji and 100th birth anniversary of the iconic African leader Nelson Mandela.
It is therefore an honour for me to address this august gathering on this very special occasion.India has always shared a special bond with the people of Africa and supported their liberation from colonialism and from apartheid. As Nelson Mandela himself said “We would not be talking victory today if the example set by the young Republic of India had not been followed by the rest of the world.”Pan- Africanism inspired the founding fathers of Africa and led to the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and its successor organization, the African Union.
This has been taken to a new level with the signing of the historic African Continental Free Trade Agreement in March last year to bring about economic integration of Africa, in keeping with Agenda 2063 Vision document. We view our substantive engagement with the African countries through the prism of our own experience. When we became independent, we found that external assistance came with conditionality, both overt and covert, with prescriptions that would have constricted our sovereignty and independence.
As Africa pursues Africa-owned and Africa-led development, we are determined to anchor our partnership on the principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. We take pride in our model of cooperation with Africa which is demand-driven, consultative, participative, involves local resources, builds capacity and is based on Africa’s own prioritisation of its needs.
Prime Minister Modi has declared Africa as top priority in our foreign and economic policy. Articulating our Africa policy in 10 broad guiding principles during his visit to Uganda, he stated that our development partnership will be guided by African priorities. It will be on terms that will liberate African potential and not constrain African future.
In the last four years, our long standing ties with Africa have acquired vibrancy and dynamism. There has been unprecedented intensification of our political engagement with Africa with 29 visits to African countries at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister, apart from several Ministerial visits. Let me add that visits have taken place from both sides; in addition to the visit of 41 Heads of State/Heads of Government who attended IAFS-III, we have hosted over 35 leaders from Africa for various events in the last four years, in addition to Ministerial level visits.
Keeping in mind the unprecedented engagement with Africa, the Union Cabinet of India has taken the decision to open 18 new Embassies and High Commissions in Africa in the next few years, which will take the number of Indian Missions in Africa to 47. The first of these Missions has already been opened in Rwanda last year.Africa has emerged as an important trade and investment partner. India Africa bilateral trade stood at US $ 62.66 billion for 2017-18 which reflects an increase of nearly 22 % over the previous year. India is ranked as the third largest export destination in Arica. We are happy that the Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme announced by India for Least Developed Countries has benefitted African nations and contributed towards steady increase in our trade figures by extending duty-free access to 98.2 % of India’s total tariff lines. 38 African countries now enjoy the benefits of our DFTP Scheme.
We view the recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area as yet another opportunity to boost trade and economic ties with Africa. With the positive effects of “democratic dividend”, the African continent has become and remained one of the fastest growing regions in the world.In recent years, there has been a surge in Indian investment in Africa. India is the 5th largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments of US$ 54 billion. Our investments are steadily growing in the African continent in a range of sectors.
These include telecommunication, hydrocarbon, exploration, agriculture, Education, petroleum refining and retail, IT services, chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, automobiles among others. There is considerable potential to expand our business and investment ties further, especially in the areas of minerals and mining; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; infrastructure, high-technology manufacturing and information and communication technology.
Our Lines of Credit (LoCs), which are on highly favourable terms, have become popular and considerably expanded our development partnership with Africa. Currently, 189 projects in 42 African countries for nearly USD 11.4 billion are being implemented under Indian LoCs. These projects have had a positive impact in many African countries and are changing the lives of its people by covering a range of sectors like power generation and distribution, water related projects, especially in rural areas, agriculture, irrigation, railways, sugar plants, infrastructure and Information Communication and Technology.
In a new initiative, we have offered construction of Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centres in Africa as grant assistance, in the context of the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji. Our approach to Africa has focused on helping Africans realize their true potential in various fields through a number of capacity building programmes under the ITEC scholarships, ICCR scholarships and other training programmes under IAFS-III.
Our capacity building in Africa has been second to none and is benefiting thousands of Africans. I am happy that some of the African students in India have joined us today and I would like to extend a special welcome to these young representatives, who are the future of Africa. To enhance cooperation with Africa in the Health and Education sector, an Agreement was signed in September 2018 to establish e-Vidhya Bharati Aarogya Bharati (e-VBAB) Network Project between India and Africa, which aims to provide tele-education and tele-medicine, thereby putting India’s knowledge and technical expertise at the service in African countries.
On the cultural front, last 4 years have been exceptional. Festivals of India were organized in 15 countries of Africa, in 12 for the first time. African cultural troupes have been regularly participating in Indian flagship events such as Surajkund Crafts Mela.
One of the most serious challenges toward international peace and security is the menace of terrorism. Many of the African countries like India are victims of terrorism. Consequently, preserving peace and security, countering terrorism and extremism is an important element of our engagement.
We are one of the largest contributors to UN Peace Keeping Missions and have participated in all the peacekeeping missions in Africa, playing an important role in the African continent. You are aware of the close security and defence relations we have had with many countries in Africa over the years.We also support each other at international level and have common interests on international issues like UN Security Council reforms, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, cyber security and energy security.
An important element of our engagement is our connection with the Indian Diaspora. People of Indian origin, in whichever part of the world they are, be it the Western world, Gulf or the Middle East, Asia or Africa, have played a key role in socio-economic development of their adopted countries, while keeping Indian ethos, values and culture alive. While relationship with Africa is on an upswing, the challenge is to maintain this momentum and ensure that we build on the foundation of security, development and growth for the benefit of our peoples. I am confident that the 10 guiding principles given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for enhancing cooperation with Africa will unlock the immense potential that our partnership still holds.
Africa today figures prominently on the foreign policy radar of India. I am happy to note that our relations have not just remained confined to political arena but have blossomed into a multi-faceted association where each one of us contributes something of significant value.
Strong India-Africa relations will go a long way in redefining the contours of the international order on more egalitarian lines. We should not expect anything less from this shining example of South-South cooperation.Let me conclude by saying that, as Africa marches in its journey towards security, renewal and prosperity, India will remain a trusted partner, working closely with Africa for the economic and social empowerment of its people.Long Live India-Africa Friendship…
Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the Africa Day Celebrations at Vibrant Gujarat 2019