‘Africa welcomes Indian enterprise’

Addis Ababa: With Indian firms already having invested more than $25 billion in Africa, the continent looks forward to furthering its ties with India that date back more than two millennia, a top Ethiopian leader said here.

Ties between Africa and India date back over 2,000 years and the civilisations of India and Africa have been united by the India Ocean over many centuries, said Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos.

Today, the rapid emergence of India as a major power in the globalised world has prompted growing interest in the relationship between India and Africa, Christos said during a two-day seminar here that started Wednesday evening.

The seminar was organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) ahead of the two-day Africa-India Summit to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on May 24.

Titled “Africa and India: A Partnership for Development and Growth”, the seminar was intended to give some meaningful suggestions to the leaderships of the two sides.

Indian business investments have created a large number of job opportunities for Africans. Indian entrepreneurs have invested more than $25 billion in Africa in agriculture, manufacturing, telecom, infrastructure, Christos said.

In Ethiopia alone, the minister said, the quantum of investment by Indian firms had increased from $500 million five years ago to $4.5 million today, and said his country looked forward to more for the mutual benefit of the two nations.

The increased flow of technical and financial resources to Africa will build infrastructure increase industrialization, expand employment opportunities and promote free and fair trade among our countries, he stated.
The seminar is of particular significance as Africa and India stand on the threshold of a new awakening and consciousness about each other, said Sudhir Devare, director general of ICWA, a think tank of the external affairs ministry. .

Agreeing with the remarks, Sebhat Negga, executive director of the co-host of the event, the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development, said ties between India and Africa took on a new dimension after 2008.

His reference was to the first India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in April 2008, which set a new agenda for engagement between the two sides, in areas that stretched from technology and infrastructure to social development and culture.

India today is an economic power, growing rapidly. At the same time, it has historical ties with Africa it has been very very supportive of our struggle against colonial rule and apartheid, Negga, also a lawmaker, said.

He said India may have been a late-comer vis-a-vis some other countries such as China in engaging with Africa, but also firmly believed this should not be a probleml.

We should ask ourselves, if we are good partners, he said, asking the African nations “to put our houses in order” to engage better with India.

The organisers said the event was in the nature of an academic conference with expert speakers drawn from areas such as strategic affairs, banking, gender issues, finance, policy, education, foreign relations and history.

Key speakers include the Ethiopian Education Minister Demeke Mekonnen and his colleague, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gerbe, and India’s National Maritime Foundation Director C. Uday Bhaskar.

By Arvind Padmanabhan