As India seeks to intensify its engagement with Africa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday launched the first India-Africa Forum Summit by almost doubling the lines of credit to that continent to $5.4 billion. India also opened its market for goods from Africa through a duty free preference scheme for least developed countries, 34 of which are located in Africa. Singh announced an enhanced quota of 1,600 seats annually for Africans under its flagship technical training scheme, ITEC.
Under the duty free market access scheme, “India shall unilaterally provide preferential market access for exports from all 50 least developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa,” Singh said. “Products of immediate interest to Africa which are covered, include cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts and non-industrial diamonds,” he said.
According to Singh, “between 2003-04 and 2008-09, we have extended lines of credit amounting to $2.15 billion. Over the next five years, we will more than double this amount and offer additional lines of credit amounting to $5.4 billion.” These would help develop infrastructure in the priority areas of railways, IT, telecom and power generation and physical connectivity in Africa.
While India requires Africa’s large resources to ensure its energy security and maintain its development growth rate, Singh reiterated India’s commitment to enhance Africa’s efforts to build its capacities, institutions and generate employment.
"Africa needs to meet fundamental needs of its population by building schools, providing housing and generating employment," Joseph Kabila Kabange, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said. "Words, speeches and promises have remained mere words. We need immediate visible projects," he said.
Ghana's President John Kufour hoped that the India-Africa Forum would develop the continent's human resources, build institutions and deepen economic ties.
"There are immense opportunities for cooperation. We want to deal on the basis of a win-win policy for mutual benefit," African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said. Saying that promises in the past remained unfulfilled, he said "We are not begging... We don't want a cosmetic attitude but real funding" for development and democratisation of Africa.