‘India’s development partnership with Africa multi-faceted’

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) India’s partnership with Africa has been multi-faceted, with technical cooperation and capacity building as the two areas that have had the greatest impact in strengthening bilateral ties, said a top diplomat here on Tuesday ahead of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit that kicks off next week.

Sujata Mehta, secretary (Multilateral and Economic Relations) in the ministry of external affairs, said that while India’s $7.4 billion concessional credit offered during the past two summits, in 2008 and 2011, was being utilized for projects in 41 African countries, there were “numerous challenges” in utilizing the full amount.

She said efforts would be made to address the challenges and improve upon delivery.

Addressing a conference on ‘India-Africa Partnership: Future Directions’, Mehta said India’s development partnership with Africa has had successful outcomes in building community infrastructure in the field of water and public health.

She noted that the development partnership has been like an ongoing dialogue over the years between India and the different African countries, with inputs sometimes in the form of “trenchant criticism” from scholars and analysts, and “we are trying to improve”.

Mehta also noted that India’s development cooperation with Africa was a partnership based on solidarity and “not a requirement imposed on us… what we do is only because we feel we have something to share with other developing countries like us”.

Mehta said that India’s partnership with Africa was “non prescriptive… it is a response to a requirement expressed to us. We see it as genuinely participatory, a partnership based approach”.

She brushed away criticism of India’s development partnership with Africa as lacking the profile of big players like China, saying that India’s partnership is “unlike the state-centric model which would be based on resource extraction and the creation of a pertinent infrastructure”.

The conference was organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Brookings India.

Gennet Zewide, the ambassador of Ethiopia, addressing the conference, said Africa has abundant natural resources and vast land for agriculture. She said the 5.5 GDP growth rate of Africa over the past few years has attracted many players to the continent for closer economic cooperation.

Zewide, who is the Dean of African Diplomatic Corps, said that Africa-India ties are based on mutual respect and genuine partnership and a sense of solidarity.

She said “India surpasses all other countries in providing human resource development in various sectors” to Africa”.

India can partner Africa in striving to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the Agenda 2063 Goals of Africa, she added and hoped the upcoming summit would look into the issue.

Zewide also expressed hope that trade and economic ties between India and Africa as well as people-to-people ties would get a boost.

The ambassador said while people of Africa knew of India because of Bollywood and of India’s outreach to Africa, the reverse was not true.

Earlier, chairing the session, IDSA Director General Jayant Prasad identified food security, energy, information and communications technology and institution building as some of the focal areas of future interactions between India and Africa.

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