Africa has been the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government’s top priority in foreign and economic policy matters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday. “Although Indian sportsmen can’t compete with their African peers in long distance running, the country will stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the continent in its race towards a brighter future,” he said.
“India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation, which is responsive to the needs of African countries. It is demand-driven and free of conditions,” Mr. Modi said, alluding to the prescriptive and conditional approach adopted by some countries in their engagements with African nations.
Narrating several historical anecdotes about Africa’s close ties with India and Gujarat, in particular, Mr. Modi, who was inaugurating the annual meeting of the African Development Bank in the State’s capital said, “The Gujarati flair for business is well known. Gujaratis are also famous for their love of Africa! As an Indian and a Gujarati, I am very happy that this meeting is being held in India and that too in Gujarat.”
The relationship that was earlier restricted to mercantile and maritime ties has now evolved to include cricket connections between Chennai and Capetown, business ties between Bamako and Bangalore, and development links between Delhi and Dakar, he said.
“Trade between Africa and India has multiplied in the last 15 years. It has doubled in the last five years to reach nearly $72 billion in 2014-15. India’s commodity trade with Africa in 2015-16 was higher than our commodity trade with the United States of America,” he said.
India’s private sector is also providing an impetus to stronger India-Africa ties, with Africa accounting for nearly one-fifth of Indian overseas direct investments between 1996 and 2016, he pointed out.
“India is the fifth largest country investing in the continent, with investments over the past 26 years amounting to $54 billion, creating jobs for Africans,” said Mr. Modi, who has visited six African countries since 2015.
“I am proud to say that there is no country in Africa that has not been visited by an Indian Minister in the last three years. Thirteen current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents in Africa have attended educational or training institutions in India. Six current or former chiefs of armed forces in Africa trained in India’s military institutions,” the Prime Minister said to drive home the point about forging closer ties on all fronts.
Mr. Modi said he was encouraged by the response of African countries to the International Solar Alliance initiative, which was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015. Nauru ratified the framework and shared it with India, while five other African countries signed the pact on Monday.
“In the sports arena, India cannot compete with Africa in long distance running. But I can assure you that India will always stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, supporting you in the long and difficult race for a better future,” the Prime Minister said before officially declaring the bank’s conference open.
While 152 lines of credit have been extended by the Exim Bank of India to 44 countries for a total amount of nearly $8 billion, India had offered $10 billion for development projects over the next five years and a grant assistance of $600 million at the last India-Africa summit in 2015.
The Prime Minister said India was backing the establishment of a regional centre of the New Development Bank, popularly called the ‘BRICS Bank’ to promote collaboration with partners like the African Development Bank. India is a founder of the Brics Bank and had joined the African Development Bank in 1983.
“India has contributed to all of the Bank’s General Capital increases. For the most recent African Development Fund replenishment, India pledged $29 million. We have also contributed to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries and Multilateral Debt Reduction Initiatives,” he said.