Amb Vijay Thakur Singh, Director-General, Indian Council of World Affairs,
Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, G-20 Coordinator,
Amb Gurjit Singh,
Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (Economic Relations),
Her Excellency Ms. Rosette Mossi Nyamale, Ambassador of Democratic Republic of Congo,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to join the august gathering today to celebrate Africa Day 2022. I congratulate ICWA for organizing a book launch, book discussion and a panel discussion on this occasion. I commend Ambassador Gurjit Singh for bringing out this book - “The Harambee Factor: India-Africa Economic and Development Partnership”. It is a deeply researched study on an important theme in our engagement with Africa. I am confident that this book will be a good resource material for academics and diplomats.
ICWA has always played an important role in promoting India-Africa relations. It has made several efforts to enhance the understanding of Africa in India through research, dialogues and conferences. ICWA hosts major conferences both, in India and in Africa as part of the India-Africa Forum Summit process. Only last week, the External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar was in ICWA to launch another book discussing India-Africa relations. These two back-to-back events highlight the role that ICWA is playing in advancing our ties with Africa.
Africa Day is celebrated to mark the founding of the Organization of African Unity. It is celebrated across the world including in India. This year’s theme is “Nutrition”. The general objective of the AU Nutrition year for 2022 is to secure greater political commitment and investment in nutrition to address the ongoing nutrition challenges.” The panel discussion on “Food and Health Security in Africa: An Agenda for India-Africa Cooperation” is timely and relevant.
India-Africa relations are deep rooted and traced back to several millenia. Regular political exchanges at all levels have further strengthened our ties with Africa across all sectors.
The last 8 years saw intense political engagement between India and Africa with 34 outgoing visits from India at the level of President, Vice-President and Prime Minister and more than 100 incoming visits at Heads of State or Heads of Government and Ministerial level. These have reinforced our ties with Africa. To enhance diplomatic engagement with Africa, India has 43 resident missions and 7 consulates in Africa. We endeavour to further enhance our diplomatic presence.
In the 20th century, the India-Africa partnership further strengthened during their fight against colonialism. The spirit of Non-interference and mutual respect for each other reached new heights in India-Africa relations to fulfill the spirit of “developing together as equals”. This robust and dynamic relationship has been buttressed with the presence of strong and vibrant Indian diaspora, business community and professionals.
The nature of India-Africa bilateral engagement is diverse, encompassing areas pertaining to education, healthcare, science, technology, infrastructure and capacity building.
India's relationship with Africa has assumed greater salience during the Covid pandemic, as we stood together to support each other. India dispatched packages of essential medicines to more than 25 countries in Africa to complement the national efforts of the various countries in Africa to combat the pandemic. We have also supplied Make in India Covid vaccines to several African countries.
Symbolic of the deepening India-Africa relations, it is the fact that India is now the continent's third largest trading partner and the fifth largest investor in Africa, with cumulative investments of more than US$ 54 billion. In January 2021, the India-Africa Trade Council has been established in India for building up business relations between both the countries of India and African Region. This was a welcome move.
The Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme announced by India for LDCs benefited 38 African nations and has contributed towards steady increase in our trade figures. As of today, the African continent is home to some of the world's fastest growing economies. Their growth and development ambitions offer some promising opportunities for investment in high-growth sectors such as infrastructure development, manufacturing, services industry, agri-tech, healthcare, sustainable energy, new and emerging technologies, among several others.
In the 10 guiding principles articulated by Prime Minister Modi ji for India's engagement with Africa at the Ugandan Parliament in 2018, India has committed to sharing its experience with the digital revolution to support Africa's development; improve delivery of public services; extend education and health; spread digital literacy; expand financial inclusion; and mainstream the marginalised.
I am glad to note that the African continent is the 2nd largest recipient of India's overseas assistance. 189 Lines of Credit on highly favourable terms have been extended to 41 countries for a total amount of over US$ 12 billion. These LOCs cover multiple sectors like power plants, power transmission & distribution networks, railways, roads, ports, agriculture and irrigation, industrial units, food processing units, skill development etc. India is also working for Capacity building in Human resources with the African nations including in Tele medicine and Tele-education: e-VidyaBharati & e-ArogyaBharati. As part of capacity building of African students, we whole heartedly welcome African students to come and study in India. I would like to highlight that there are more than 24,000 African students enrolled in Indian institutions in various degree courses. We also offer thousands of ITEC scholarships to almost all African Nations.
In Africa's pursuance of "Africa-owned” and "Africa-led” development, it is our endeavour to root our partnership on the principles of equality, mutual respect, solidarity and mutual benefit.
As Minister in charge of furthering partnership with African countries, I regularly interact with the leadership of African countries. I undertook official visits to 22 countries in Africa in last three years and interacted with the leadership as well as Indian community. I also remain in constant touch with leaders of many other African countries, telephonically. I can say with conviction that there are ample scope for expanding our partnership in several fields including in agriculture, irrigation, education, science and technology, healthcare and infrastructure. I saw for myself the potential. It is a fact that it has been under utilised. I call upon the business community, to increase the engagements; students and researchers to undertake & involve on more research; business Councils/Chambers to step up their activities for increasing the business & trade flow; and businesses to explore opportunities to increase exports of Make in India products to Africa.
In conclusion, I congratulate ICWA for the initiative in organizing this event. I thank the African diplomatic community for taking time and joining us at this event.