India, Africa two bright spots of opportunities in global economy: Modi

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 29, 2015 13:54 IST
Delegates from African countries look on during the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi. (AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the relation between India and Africa is above strategic and economic interests and called for a united action on climate change and vowed to help it in developing its agriculture sector.

Addressing the heads of 54 African countries at the third India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, Modi said African initiatives are replacing old fault lines with new bridges of regional economic integration.

“Africa and India are two bright spots of hope and opportunities in the global economy,” Modi said in his speech.

The Prime Minister said the meeting of India and African nations brings one third of humanity under one roof.

“The heart beat of 1.25 billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm. It is not just a meeting of India and Africa. Today, the dreams of one-third of humanity have come together under one roof,” PM Modi said addressing the summit.

“We have spoken in one voice in the world and we have formed a partnership of prosperity among ourselves,” he said.

He also emphasised on the importance of youth and said that it “something precious that unites us”.

Performers take part in a cultural programme during the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi on October 29, 2015. (AFP)

“Two third of India and Africa is under the age of 35. And, if the future belongs to the youth, then this century is ours to shape and build,” he said.

Tackling climate change

The Prime Minister said both Africa and India want to “light up lives of our people and power their future”, adding that it should be done in such a manner that “snow on Kilimanjaro does not disappear, the glacier that feeds the River Ganga does not retreat”.

“No one can be more conscious of climate change than Indians and Africans,” Modi said.

“We are each making enormous efforts with our modest resources to combat climate change. For India, 175 Gigawatts of additional renewable energy capacity by 2022 and reduction in emission intensity by 33-35% by 2030 are just two aspects of our efforts,” he said.

“But, it is also true that the excess of a few cannot become the burden of many. So, when the world meets in Paris in December, we look to see a comprehensive and concrete outcome that is based on the well established principles in the UN Convention on Climate Change.”

Modi said India will do its part for it, but also wants to see “a genuine global public partnership that makes clean energy affordable; provides finance and technology to developing countries to access it; and the means to adapt to the impact of climate change”.

He also invited African nations to join an alliance of solar-rich countries that India has proposed to launch in Paris on November 30 at the time of COP-21 meeting.

“Our goal is to make solar energy an integral part of our life and reach it to the most unconnected villages and communities.”

He also said that India and Africa should also seek a global trading regime that serves our development goals and improves our trade prospects.

“When we meet at Nairobi Ministerial of the WTO in December, we must ensure that the Doha Development Agenda of 2001 is not closed without achieving these fundamental objectives,” he said.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R) walks past flags of African nations as he arrives to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi. (AFP)

“We should also achieve a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security and special safeguard mechanism in agriculture for the developing countries,” Modi added.

Helping Africa’s agriculture sector

While addressing the dignitaries, Modi said Africa has 60% of the world’s arable land reserves and just 10% of the global output. He said a spurt in Africa’s agriculture sector can drive the continent’s march to prosperity and also support global food security.

Appreciating the measures taken by the African countries in the fields of healthcare, education and agriculture, Modi said: “We see strong measures that are radically improving healthcare, education and agriculture. Primary school enrolment in Africa now exceeds 90%.”

He said Africa has now joined the global mainstream of innovation.

“India has committed $7.4 billion in concessional credit and $1.2 billion in grant since the first India-Africa Summit in 2008,” Modi informed African delegations.

It is creating 100 capacity building institutions, developing infrastructure, public transport, clean energy, irrigation, agriculture and manufacturing capacity across Africa, Modi added.

“The mobile banking of M-Pesa, the healthcare innovation of MedAfrica, or the agriculture innovation of AgriManagr and Kilimo Salama, are using mobile and digital technology to transform lives in Africa,” Modi said.

Modi will speak to delegates, including heads of state or officials, from all 54 African Union nations, with announcements aimed at jump-starting bilateral trade and burnishing Indian investment in the continent.

Despite more than doubling since 2007 to $72 billion in fiscal 2014-15, India’s two-way trade with Africa is still comparatively small.

Postponed since December over the Ebola crisis, the approximately 1,000-delegate summit represents the highest number of foreign dignitaries to descend on India since 1983 and is thought to be the biggest ever overseas gathering of African leaders.

India’s agenda

As well as delivering two speeches, Modi will host bilateral meetings with leaders of countries including Angola, Ethiopia and Egypt.

On Wednesday, he held a record 19 meetings with leaders including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, the oil-rich nation key to India’s energy interests on the continent.

New Delhi has worked hard to showcase its commitment to Africa’s economic rise and historic friendship with African nations -- with some thinly veiled jabs at China -- as it vies for a greater share of the continent’s natural resources.

India’s economic presence in Africa is dwarfed by China, whose bilateral trade with the continent topped $200 billion last year -- more than the GDP of the 30 smallest African economies combined.

But it is gaining ground, dominated by the energy sector and led by private entrepreneurs.

Africa primarily exports raw materials to India, including precious metals, gemstones and oil, which are then processed into goods such as cut diamonds or refined petroleum products.

The first India-Africa summit was just seven years ago -- long after China, the European Union and Japan held similar meetings.

(With agency inputs)

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