India Writes Network and India and the World magazine hosted an international webinar on
on the Africa Day (May 25), entitled “Mapping Next Steps in India-Africa Partnership: Pandemic & Beyond.” The conference brought together eminent Indian and African diplomats from around the world to brainstorm on enhancing India-Africa cooperation in the immediate context of the pandemic and also in the post-COVID economic recovery.
Mr Rahul Chhabra, India’s High Commissioner to Kenya and Ambassador to Somalia, and Secretary (Economic Relations)-Designate, Ministry of External Affairs, was the keynote speaker at the conference.
H.E Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam, Ambassador of Eritrea and Dean of Heads of African Mission in India, sent a message for this conference. The text of the Eritrean Ambassador’s statement is as follows:
It is a great pleasure for me to deliver this message that happens to coincide with the 2020 Africa Day celebrations. Suffice me to note that, Africa Day Celebrations represent an avenue to recall and celebrate some landmark achievements of the African Union (AU) on various issues including, among others, promotion of peace, security and stability, Infrastructure development, continental integration, women and youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and eradication of diseases.
Silencing the Guns
As Indicated by the African Union Commission, the celebrations also provide us with the opportunity to reflect on the Union’s transformation and achievements and also renew commitments to realize the Africa we want as embedded in Agenda 2063.
The theme for this year’s celebration is Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development. This theme was decided by African Leaders as far back as 2013 during the Golden Jubilee (50th) Anniversary of the OAU/AU, during which African Heads of State and Government made a Solemn Declaration committing to tackle head-on the scourge of violent conflict in Africa and pronounced their firm determination to achieve the noble goal of a conflict-free Africa.
To that end, “Silencing the Guns in Africa was reaffirmed as a Flagship Project of Africa’s Agenda 2063, requiring Africans to work together towards ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide”.
The War against Coronavirus
Sadly, however, instead of taking stock of achievements and challenges to efforts over the years relating to the theme for the celebrations, we have been confronted by a different kind of war – the Novel Coronavirus disease or Covid-19 – a health pandemic which has been ravaging the world since it was first identified in January 2020 in the People’s Republic of China. In Africa, although Covid-19 fatalities remain largely low relative to other parts of the world, the disease has virtually brought activities of every facet of our economies to a halt.
Mindful of the predictions of the World Health Organization (WHO) that “Africa must expect the worst”, every African country is making frantic efforts to confront the disease head-on. In addition, a Joint Continental Strategy for Covid-19 Outbreak has been developed, with the principal objectives to:
- Coordinate efforts of Member States, African Union agencies, World Health Organization, and other partners to ensure synergy and minimize duplication.
- Promote evidence-based public health practice for surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and control of COVID-19.
It is in this context that the theme of the Webinar, “Next Steps in India-Africa Partnership – Pandemic & Beyond,” (organized by India Writes Network & India and the World) come to play. Let me emphasize that the strong partnership between Africa and India is being tested during this trying time.
It would be recalled that the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) which was held in Delhi October 26–30, 2015 reaffirmed development cooperation as the cornerstone of the India-Africa partnership. Indeed, it is an understatement that India has been of tremendous assistance to development initiatives of many African countries, particularly through granting of Lines of Credit (LoC) and the Buyers facilities. Unfortunately, these good initiatives are now being threatened by the Pandemic.
I am aware that the requests of many African countries for approval for the import of urgently needed Preventive Protective Equipment (PPEs) and life-saving medication such as Hydroxychloroquine from India have been approved by the Government of India. Yet other requests are pending.
Obviously, Covid-19 has and is adversely affecting the finances of all African countries. I will, therefore, suggest that India relaxes servicing schedules of the Lines of Credit (LoC) and Buyers facilities extended to African countries in view of the situation. The foregoing, in my view, is the least support that India can extend to African countries in the spirit of India-Africa Partnership during the period of this pandemic even as we work towards the Fourth India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-IV).
Beyond the pandemic, there are still great opportunities available in Africa for India in the spirit of the India-Africa Partnership.
As many may be aware, a new player is emerging with the potential to defragment Africa and boost the productivity of its economies: The African Continental Free Trade Africa (AFCFTA), one of the Flagship programmes and projects of the African Union Agenda 2063, intended to help in significantly accelerating growth of Intra-Africa trade and to use trade, more effectively, as an engine of growth and sustainable development, through doubling of infra-Africa trade by 2022, strengthen Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations and establish the financial institutions within agreed upon time frames.
Expectedly, the AFCFTA will create a single market for goods, services, and movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent.
I urge India, Indian industrialists and other business establishments and executives to consider relocating some of their activities and production lines to Africa in order enjoy the enormous opportunities that will emerge, including duty free and quota free accesses and, when the AFCFTA fully takes off.
Let me take this opportunity to express sincere appreciation to the Government of India for the varied support they are giving to the African Missions and African nationals across the country during this difficult period. Kudos to all health workers and other essential service providers for the wonderful job they are doing to fight this rather mysterious disease. As we say in Africa, “this too shall pass”
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