The Association of African Students in India (AASI) is proactively taking steps to bridge the divide of mistrust between Indians and Africans
The year 2018 saw Prime Minster Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind making several visits to African countries. Many of them proved to be maiden visits by any Prime Minister in the last few decades. Undoubtedly, this flurry of high-level visits, from India to African continent, during the last three years, is part of a sustained attempt to strengthen business, diplomatic and cultural ties with the world’s second largest continent. However, despite intense interest in Africa today, racial stereotypes about it continue to persist in India. Just last month, four Tanzanian women and two Nigerian men were attacked, by a 200-strong mob, on accusations of kidnapping, a 16-year-old boy, and cannibalism, which on investigation found to be completely baseless and farcical.
The widespread ignorance of Indians about Africa, and the consequent acceptance of a stereotypical image of Africans have resulted in immense distrust, anger and even violence on several occasions. India has more than 50 thousand African students pursuing higher studies in different universities throughout the country. Many of them continue to face racial exploitation and discrimination on a regular basis. Amidst all this hostility and negativity, a major support for African students comes from the Association of African Students in India (AASI). The Association brings together thousands of African students on a common platform, uniting them in the true pluralistic spirit of Africa. Through active social media network and AASI membership, the Association provides assistance to African students related to accommodation, internship, work visa etc.
The Association of African Students in India (AASI) is at the forefront in not only taking care of the interest of Africa students in India but also bridging the divide of mistrust between Indians and Africans. Founded in the year 1963 by the late Prof Dr. Bingu Wa Murtharika (Former Chairperson of The African Union and president of Malawi) while studying in India, the association, over the years, has evolved into a diverse platform connecting African youth in India. The current President of AASI is Merveil Ntambwe Ngongo, and General Secretary is Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence.
“We are changing the narrative. In our quest to promote acceptance, tolerance and peaceful coexistence between Africa and India, we are making best of our efforts to break cultural barriers. We have initiated AASI awareness campaigns seeking to integrate with our various Indian communities. Recently, a Community Interaction programme was also organized in Dwarka, “ says Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence. He further informed, how African community also became a part of government’s Swachch Bharat Abhiyan initiative, and took the initiative to clean up Noida’s Sector 18.
To strengthen its network, AASI has been Associated with various governmental and Non – Governmental organisations including Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), The Asia – Africa Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), The Asia – Africa Youth Cooperation (AAYCO), The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), The Indo – Rwandan Youth Leaders Forum (IRYLF), Federation of International Students Associations (FISA), Confederation of Young Leaders (CYL), Peaceful Mind Foundation (PMF) & The Global Youth Forum for Mental Health.
Africa is home to 53 countries, with diverse groups of people who speak a variety of languages and practice a wide range of customs. This multiculturism must be understood and appreciated to put an end to discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice.