Modi pitches for UNSC reforms, offers Africa $10 bn credit (Afternoon Lead)

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for a united voice from India and Africa seeking UN reforms and offered the continent of 54 nations $10 billion in additional concessional credit.

Delivering the inaugural address of the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) meeting here, the largest such conclave between Africa and any other nation to date, at the cavernous Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Modi said that even as the 70th anniversary of the UN was being celebrated this year, the world was “undergoing political, economic, technological and security transition on a scale and speed rarely seen in recent history”.

“Yet our global institutions reflect the circumstances of the century that we left behind, not the one we are in today,” he said.

The summit drew top leaders from Africa, including two kings from Morocco and Swaziland, several presidents, prime ministers, vice presidents, foreign ministers and other ministers, besides large delegations of senior officials and business leaders. Top leaders from the larger or fast-growing AFrican nations like Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya and Gabon attended the summit.

Stating that this is a world of free nations and awakened aspirations, he said: “Our institutions cannot be representative of our world, if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of UN members, or the world’s largest democracy with one-sixth of humanity.

“That is why India and Africa must speak in one voice for reforms of the United Nations, including its Security Council.”

In a further boost to the African economy, the prime minister announced $10 billion in concessional credit in addition to the $7.4 billion India has already committed.

“To add strength to our partnership, India will offer concessional credit of $10 billion over the next five years. This will be in addition to our ongoing credit programme,” he said.

Modi said India would also offer a grant assistance of $600 million, which would include an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million.

The prime minister said India would help develop Africa’s agricultural sector using technology as a strong foundation.

“Africa has 60 percent of the world’s arable land reserves, and just 10 percent of the global output. Agriculture in Africa can drive the continent’s march to prosperity, and also support global food security,” he stated.

Modi said India, with its expertise in healthcare and affordable medicines, would help Africa in the fight against many diseases and give newborns a better chance to survive.

“We will also collaborate to develop Indian and African treasures of traditional knowledge and medicines.”

The prime minister also sought Africa’s cooperation to combat climate change.

“No one has done less to contribute to global warming than India and Africa. No one can be more conscious of climate change than Indians and Africans,” he said.

“This is because we are the inheritors of nature’s most precious gifts, and of traditions that respect them the most; and, our lives remain most connected to mother earth.”

He said India and Africa would deepen their partnership on clean energy, sustainable habitats, public transport and climate resilient agriculture.

According to Modi, development of human capital in every walk of life would be at the heart of India’s partnership with Africa.

He said India would help in improving connectivity across Africa, developing infrastructure and setting up technology parks.

“We will help connect Africa from Cairo to Cape Town, from Marakesh to Mombassa; help develop your infrastructure, power and irrigation; help add value to your resources in Africa; and, set up industrial and information technology parks.”

The prime minister said the best partnership is one that develops human capital and institutions and equips a nation to have the freedom to make its own choices.

“It also opens doors to opportunities for the youth. Development of human capital in every walk of life will be at the heart of our partnership. We will open our doors more; we will expand tele-education; and we will continue to build institutions in Africa.”

Modi said technology will be a strong foundation of partnership between India and Africa.

“We will make available our space assets and technology. We will use the possibilities of digital technology to transform development, public services, governance, disaster response, resource management and quality of life.”

Evincing a shared feeling of pain over the killing of innocents in terror incidents in Africa, Modi sought to deepen cooperation with African countries in maritime security and countering terrorism.

“Today, in many parts of the world, the light of a bright future flickers in the storm of violence and instability. When terror snuffs out life on the streets and beaches, and in malls and schools of Africa, we feel your pain as our own. And, we see the links that unite us against this threat,” he said.

“That is why we wish to deepen our cooperation in maritime security and hydrography, and countering terrorism and extremism… and, why we must have a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism,” he said.

“If this century is going to be one in which all humans have a life of opportunity, equality and dignity; stand in peace with each other; and live in balance with nature, then India and Africa must rise together,” the prime minister said.

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