Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday left for a six day tour to Addis Ababa, where he will attend the India-Africa Forum Summit, and to Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania, for a trip that is set to give a big diplomatic and economic push to India's emerging power in the African continent.
Manmohan Singh touches down in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union (AU) and the diplomatic capital of Africa, around 4.30 pm on Monday. He will co-chair the two day India-Africa Forum summit starting Tuesday with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, chairman of the African Union and president of Equatorial Guinea.
Leaders from 15 African countries, chosen by the AU under a participatory formula worked out between India and the AU in the Gambian capital Banjul in the summer of 2006, will represent Africa at the summit.
The African countries participating in the summit are Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Swaziland.
Jean Ping, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, will also take part in the summit.
The summit will culminate in the Addis Ababa Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation which will map out an ambitious blueprint for India-Africa engagement over the next few years.
India hosted the first forum summit in April 2008.
At the end of the two day summit on Wednesday, Manmohan Singh is expected to announce fresh lines of credit worth $500 million for a host of infrastructure projects and an increase in the number of scholarships for African students under the Indian government's flagship Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
This will be the third time Manmohan Singh will be touching down in Africa during his seven years as the Prime Minister of the country. He had gone to Nigeria on a bilateral visit, followed by a trip to Johannesburg to attend the IBSA summit of India, Brazil and South Africa.
He also participated in the Commonwealth summit in Kampala in 2008.
Ahead of his visit, Manmohan Singh puts Africa high on India's diplomatic priority, saying Africa is emerging as "a new growth pole of the world" and hoped that the summit will be a "landmark event" which will help expand a "strong and purposeful partnership between India and Africa", in tune with "the realities of the 21st century."
In his departure statement on Sunday night, Manmohan Singh underlined that the burgeoning India-Africa partnership rested on "three pillars of capacity building and skill transfer, trade and infrastructure development."
The summit is being held against the backdrop of "an Africa on the move", which is being courted by major and emerging powers for its resources and markets.
Manmohan Singh is expected to underscore India's development centric partnership with the African continent. In the first ever visit by an Indian prime minister to Ethiopia, Manmohan Singh will also hold bilateral talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Meles Zenawi.
In Addis Ababa, Manmohan Singh will also hold bilateral meetings with over half a dozen leaders from African countries.
He will address a joint session of the Ethiopian Parliament on Thursday before leaving for Tanzania.
In Dar-es-Salaam, Manmohan Singh will hold wide ranging talks with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
"We wish to enhance the substance of this partnership in consonance with the developmental priorities of Tanzania," the Prime Minister said in his departure statement.
The Prime Minister returns to New Delhi on Saturday night.