Excerpts from Foreign Secretary’s speech

The speech was given at the valedictory session of the conference “Understanding Africa: Continuity and Change”

The continent of Africa, the many nations of Africa, the multiple and diverse cultures and ethnicities of Africa, have been familiar to India since the dawn of history. Some of our most ancient trade routes mark the passage of goods and ideas from the Indian subcontinent to the heart of Africa. While the political and more recently economic and developmental exchanges have often been commented on, the cultural aspects to our relationship are striking and grand. In fact, if I may be bold enough to say so, there is a little bit of Africa in every Indian and a little bit of India in every part of Africa.

The Indian and African economies represent two of the world’s most dynamic economic growth stories. Many of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa and the combined GDP of the continent is US $ 2.4 trillion. By 2030 Africa will represent almost a quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers. With 54 countries, a billion people, a youthful demographic and an abundance of resources, Africa will count for a lot, and will carry our planet’s hopes and responsibilities.

Reaping the benefits of democracy and political stability, countries in Africa have taken major strides towards economic integration through initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). When in force, AfCFTA will raise intra-Africa trade levels by 52 per cent and create one of the largest and most ambitious economic spaces in the world. India wants to be a part of that exciting space and India wants to help Africa realise its potential, as per African priorities.

India’s relationship with Africa has been advanced using consultative and responsive mechanisms under the rubric of India-Africa Forum Summit. The Summit of 2015 was a remarkable event that saw participation from all 54 countries of the African continent. It infused a new dynamism in our relationship and I am sure the next Summit will go even further.

Under the specific guidance of Prime Minister Modi, in the past five years, our political engagement has intensified as never before. There have been 34 outgoing visits to African countries at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister. There is not a single country in the continent that has not been visited by at least a Union Minister. India has had the privilege of hosting nearly 100 African leaders in the past 5 years for various bilateral and multilateral events, including 41 leaders for the India-Africa Forum Summit. To enhance diplomatic engagement, India is opening 18 new embassies in Africa, to take the total number of Indian missions to 47 out of a total of 54 countries in Africa. Nine of the 18 new missions have already opened.

The picture on trade and investment is encouraging. India-Africa trade in the previous year was valued at US$ 69 billion, a 12 per cent annual increase. The Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme announced by India has benefited African nations by extending duty free access to 98.2 per cent of India’s total tariff lines. Thirty-eight African countries benefit from the DFTP Scheme. India has become the fifth largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments of US$ 54 billion. Indian investment has created thousands of jobs for local citizens.

In terms of our development cooperation, over two-thirds of India’s LOCs in the past decade have been offered to African countries. Currently 189 projects in 42 African countries, valued at US$ 11.4 billion, are being implemented under Indian LoCs. These projects range from drinking water schemes to irrigation, solar electrification, power plants, transmission lines, cement plants, technology parks, and railway infrastructure.

Our cooperation incorporates power projects and dams in Sudan and Rwanda; water treatment in Tanzania; sugar factories in Ethiopia; and technology parks in Mozambique and Swaziland. We have built the presidential palace in Ghana, the National Assembly building in the Gambia, and very recently the Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre in Niger, completed in just 14 months.

As you must know, the International Solar Alliance is an international organisation incubated by and headquartered in India. It aims to contribute to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement through rapid and massive deployment of clean energy. The ISA aims to bring together countries to provide a collective response to obstacles to massive deployment of solar energy – in terms of technology, finance and capacity. The goal is to raise the trillion dollars needed to develop 1 TW (one terawatt) of solar energy capacity by 2030. African countries will have a significant role in the success of ISA. The ISA Secretariat is setting up largescale solar projects of 500 MW each in several African countries. It is also working to build solar water pumping systems in at least nine African countries and establish Solar Training Application and Research centres (STAR-c) in six.

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