The first India-Africa Summit began in New Delhi on Tuesday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announcing that India would give preferential market access to 34 countries in Africa, which were among the least developed nations in the world.
In his inaugural address at the summit, attended by the leaders of 14 African countries including 10 heads of state and government, Manmohan Singh called for turning the 21st century into a "century of Asia and Africa".
India's commitment for overall development and progress, he said, was steadfast as it was keen to see Africa find its rightful place in the world.
Manmohan Singh described Africa as the "land of awakening", adding that the two billion people of India and Africa could set an example of "fruitful partnership".
The prime minister said there was much to gain from this partnership. He, however, stressed that it should not be limited to an interaction between governments but should also reach to an engagement between the widest possible sections in India and Africa.
The two-day summit seeks to forge a more contemporary partnership in key areas of trade and energy. The two sides are also keen to work closely on important global issues like the proposed reform to the United Nations, fight against terrorism and global warming.
Welcoming the guests from Africa earlier in the morning, Minister Of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said the summit would help the two sides establish a "dynamic partnership".
A film on India-Africa ties would be screened later for the visiting leaders and delegates.
The foreign ministers of India and Africa who met Monday have finalised a draft declaration that will be announced by the leaders at the end of the Summit on Wednesday.
The declaration has tried to identify areas of potential growth where the two sides could work closely for their mutual benefit.
Amongst those attending are South African President Thabo Mbeki, Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Burkina Faso Prime Minister Tertius Zongo, Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila Kabange, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ghana President John Agyekum Kufuor, Kenyan Prime Minister Mwai Kibaki and Senegal President Maitre Abdoulaye Wade.