At the African Development Bank annual meetings in Gandhinagar, perhaps the most significant development was AAGC – the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, a win-win for Africa, Japan and India. -Shailesh Pathak, CEO, CityInfra Capital and B20 Infrastructure member
Gandhinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi added a new chapter to Indo-African friendship and economic cooperation when he said in his speech at the inauguration of the Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) here on 23 May 2017 that 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.
The theme of the African Development Bank (AfDB) meeting was “Transforming Agriculture for wealth creation in Africa”. This is an area where India and the Bank can fruitfully join hands. I have already mentioned the Cotton Technical Assistance Programme.
As one plank of this cooperation, the Prime Minister said India extends lines of credit through India’s Exim Bank. 152 credits have been extended to 44 countries for a total amount of nearly 8 billion dollars. During the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, India offered 10 billion dollars for development projects over the next five years. We also offered grant assistance of 600 million dollars.
Africa-India trade has multiplied in the last fifteen years, the Prime Minister said adding it has doubled in the last five years to reach nearly seventy-two billion US dollars in 2014-15. India’s commodity trade with Africa in 2015-16 was higher than our commodity trade with the United States of America.
India is also working with United States and Japan to support development in Africa, the Prime Minister addnounced at the meeting and recalled his detailed conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Abe during his visit to Tokyo. During that meeting the two leaders had discussed their commitment for enhancing growth prospects for all. In their joint declaration, they mentioned an Asia Africa Growth Corridor and proposed further conversations with the African Fraternity.
Indian and Japanese research institutions have come up with a Vision Document, the Prime Minister said and congratulated RIS, ERIA and IDE-JETRO for their efforts in putting it together. This was done in consultation with think tanks from Africa. The idea is that India and Japan, with other willing partners, would explore joint initiatives in skills, health, infrastructure, manufacturing and connectivity, Modi disclosed.
The Prime Minister further said: “Our partnership is not confined to Governments alone. India’s private sector is at the forefront of driving this impetus. From 1996 to 2016, Africa accounted for nearly one-fifth of Indian overseas direct investments. India is the fifth largest country investing in the continent, with investments over the past twenty years amounting to fifty four billion dollars, creating jobs for Africans.
We are 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. The Alliance is conceived as a coalition of countries rich in solar resources, to address their special energy needs. I am happy to note that many African countries have extended their support to this initiative.
As a founder of the New Development Bank, popularly called the “BRICS bank”, India has consistently supported establishment of a Regional Centre in South Africa. This will provide a platform to promote collaboration between NDB and other development partners including the African Development Bank.
Many of the challenges we face are the same: uplifting our farmers and the poor, empowering women, ensuring our rural communities have access to finance, building infrastructure. We have to do these within financial constraints. We have to maintain macro-economic stability so that inflation is controlled and our balance of payments is stable. There is much for us to gain by sharing our experiences on all these fronts. For example, in our push to a less-cash economy, we have learnt from the great strides that African countries like Kenya have made in the area of mobile banking.
I am happy to share that India has, in the last three years, improved on all macro-economic indicators. The fiscal deficit, balance of payments deficit, and inflation are down. The GDP growth rate, foreign exchange reserves and public capital investment are up. At the same time, we have made big strides in development.
India joined the African Development Fund in 1982 and 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 twenty nine million dollars. We have contributed to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries and Multilateral Debt Reduction Initiatives.
One of our best partnerships in the area of skills is the training of “solar mamas”. Every year eighty African women are trained in India to work on solar panels and circuits. After their training they go back and literally electrify their communities. Each woman is responsible for electrifying 50 houses in her community on return. A necessary condition for the women to be selected is that they be illiterate or semi-literate. They also learn several other skills, like basket making, bee keeping, and kitchen gardening during their stay.
We have successfully completed the Pan Africa e-network project for tele-medicine and tele-network covering 48 African countries. Five leading universities in India offered certificate, under graduate and post graduate programmes. Twelve super-speciality hospitals offered consultations and Continuous Medical Education. Around seven thousand students have concluded their studies. We will soon launch the next phase.
We will soon successfully complete the Cotton Technical Assistance Programme for African Countries launched in 2012. The project was implemented in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda.
Over decades, our ties have become stronger. After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy. The year 2015 was a watershed. The third India Africa Summit held that year was attended by all fifty-four African countries having diplomatic relations with India. A record forty-one African countries participated at the level of Heads of State or Government.
Since 2015, I have visited six African Countries, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius and Seychelles. Our President has visited three countries, Namibia, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The Vice-President visited seven countries, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, Rwanda and Uganda. 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. Friends, from a time when we mainly had mercantile and maritime links between Mombasa and Mumbai, we have today
• this Annual meeting which connects Abidjan and Ahmedabad
• business links between Bamako and Bangalore
• cricketing links between Chennai and Cape Town
• development links between Delhi and Dakar.
This brings me to our development cooperation. 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.
As one plank of this cooperation, India extends lines of credit through India’s Exim Bank. 152 credits have been extended to 44 countries for a total amount of nearly 8 billion dollars.
During the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, India offered 10 billion dollars for development projects over the next five years. We also offered grant assistance of 600 million dollars. ”
CEO, CityInfra Capital and B20 Infrastructure member, Shailesh Pathak, who was an India-Japan event delegate said: “At the African Development Bank annual meetings in Gandhinagar, perhaps the most significant development was AAGC – the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, a win-win for Africa, Japan and India. He also observed that AAGC may be seen by many as a reply to OBOR.
India’s diaspora, according to him, has done well in so many African countries. Bollywood’s soft power has shaped favourable sentiment in Africa, including inspiring Nigeria’s Nollywood. So many African friends know Amitabh Bachchan & SRK and can hum Indian songs. In the opening ceremony, PM Modi quipped that while Indians could not compete with Africans in long distance running, India would always stand shoulder to shoulder with Africa in its race to a better future.