Awareness about Africa lacking in India: Ethiopian envoy (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) There is hardly any awareness about Africa in India or about its diverse people and culture, though many in Africa know about India, says Ethiopian Ambassador Gennet Zewide. And she hopes that the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) next week would focus on building people-to-people linkages between the two sides.

Zewide, the dean of the about 45-strong African diplomatic corps in New Delhi, also hopes that the October 26-29 summit will focus on the “negative media coverage” about African students in India and find ways to deal with it.

She said many people in Africa, even in rural areas, know about India – thanks to Bollywood and India’s engagement with Africa. But that was not the case in India.

“Wherever I go and say I am from Ethiopia, they ask me ‘Is it in South Africa?’ or ‘Is it in Nigeria?’… Africa is not just South Africa or Nigeria. Africa is diverse,” the envoy told IANS.

“I believe there should be pro-active engagement between Africa and India. Positive perception is needed of Africa in India,” she said.

“Africa has 54 countries, Africa is diverse. We are economically diverse, language-wise diverse, culturally diverse. So it is time we should have a people-to-people kind of relationship, which has to be strengthened.

“It is only when economic and government-to-government relations are rooted in people-to-people ties it will flourish more,” said Zewide.

She hopes the Third IAFS summit will help remove the “negativity and misconception” about African students in India.

Zewide said only by strengthening people-to-people ties can the negativity be removed.

She also feels that the Indian media “does not talk about Africa unless there is a disaster” or some negative incident about African students. And even visits by African dignitaries don’t get adequate media coverage.

“Let the media be vibrant… They don’t talk about Africa, they don’t know what is going on. Even when our leaders come, there is no coverage.”

The Third IAFS, being held in New Delhi from October 26-29, is expected to see all 54 countries being represented, with heads of state and government from over 40. The event is set to be the biggest diplomatic engagement hosted by India since the 1983 NAM and CHOGM summits.

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