Seeking to boost political and economic relations with Africa, India extended an arm of friendship to the continent offering $10 billion of soft loans and advocating “one voice” on UN reforms. In what was seen as India’s largest ever Africa outreach, the country hosted representatives of all 54 African states in the “India-Africa Forum Summit” or IAFS, the third top-level meeting of its kind to be held since 2008.
In his address to the inaugural session of the IAFS, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India and Africa as bright spots of hope and economic opportunity and offered technology and credit in an effort to match rival China’s influence over the continent.
PM Modi said:
“I am convinced that during this summit and following the summit, we are going to have very important decisions which will give both India and Africa a new sense of self confidence, our relations are going to become closer and deeper.”
Addressing the top line of the African leadership from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to South African Jacob G Zuma, he said Africa is now more settled and stable and “its initiatives are replacing old fault lines with new bridges of reforms and economic integration.”
The Prime Minister said both India and Africa were blessed by demographic dividend having the majority of their population under 35 years. During his address, PM Modi talked about India’s desire to assist Africa with infrastructure building from “Cairo to Cape Town, Marrakesh to Mombassa”. India is involved in developing infrastructure, public transport, clean energy, irrigation, agriculture and manufacturing capacity across Africa.
He doubled India’s assistance to African nations, with $10 billion in concessional loans over the next five years, in addition to about $7.4 billion that India has already pledged since 2008. He also added that 50,000 scholarships will be given to African students, whom he called the “new links” between India and the African continent.
Citing India’s energy requirements, PM Modi said the nation hopes for a share of Africa’s vast natural resources to power its own growth. “It also wants to ensure it is not completely overshadowed on the continent by China, which has plowed billions of dollars into Africa, building roads, bridges and power installations in return for access to markets and resources.” At present, India imports crude oil, coal, gemstones and gold from Africa and has good market for pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles and processed petroleum products there.
Highlighting India’s growing trade with Africa, he said in less than a decade the trade has topped $70 billion.
Modi shared Africa’s concern for security, especially from terrorism and extremism, and said he had confidence that African leaders and people would rise to those challenges. India’s assistance was sought by countries like Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Benin, in dealing with Islamic extremism. India also promised to train African soldiers in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency tactics. Advocating greater say of India and Africa in the world forum, the Prime Minister also said that the two sides should speak in one voice on United Nations reforms and the expansion of security council. While some were open in their support for India, majority of the 40 leaders present did not make any commitment about India’s candidature. PM Modi said that the UN ran the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjust to the changing world. “We cannot say what will replace them in an uncertain future. But we might have a more fragmented world that is less capable of dealing with the challenges of our era. That is why India advocates reforms in global institutions,” he said. The PM also pointed out that India and Africa contribute very little to global warming with visiting leaders backing his call for a “comprehensive” agreement on climate change at a UN conference to be held in Paris. He also emphasized that the excess of a few cannot become the burden of many and that developing nations were made to pay for the share of developed countries in climate change. The India-Africa Summit will be now be held every five years and the next one will be held in 2020.