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Inaugural Address by Secretary(ER) at India-Africa Higher Education and Skills Development Summit

August 27, 2019

Hon. Mr Buti Kgwaridi Manamela, Deputy Minister for Higher Education, South Africa
Hon. Ms Gifty Twum Ampofo, Deputy Minister for Education in charge of Technical Vocational Education & Training, Ghana
Shri. R Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India
Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen


I am delighted to be present here this morning. At the outset, allow me to thank Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee and CII for this excellent initiative. CII is doing wonderful work in bringing India and Africa together. I would also like to acknowledge the support of Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of Human Resource Development to organize the India–Africa Higher Education and Skill Development Summit. I would like to particularly thank the Honorable Ministers of South Africa and Ghana as well as the Government officials and professionals from Africa for their presence.

From the very beginning, South-South Cooperation, particularly capacity building and higher education, has been integral to India’s foreign policy. India has a unique experience in nation-building given our large, diverse and complex reality. Our approach to South-South Cooperation has been therefore to share this experience and knowledge in a spirit of solidarity with countries from the South which are treading similar paths of socio-economic development. In this quest, our bonds with Africa have probably been the closest.

Let me commend the organizers for getting leaders from Africa and India together on one of the important challenges that faces mankind in the 21st century – higher education, digital disruption and capacity building.

Firstly, in the last decade or more, the rate of change of technology has been unprecedented. The world is turning to Artificial Intelligence and a digital economy even as we move towards Industry 4.0. This has affected how people work and affected the relevance of skills and education of people in most countries.

Secondly, world population has grown significantly and the number of young people, especially in India and Africa, is higher than ever before. Youth demand appropriate and quality education and better employment to compete and aim higher.

Thirdly, it takes years to equip a young person with skills and education. It is even more difficult to make changes in skill sets to align yourself with demands of market economy. Thus providing appropriate and quality education and relevant skill sets to people remains one of the most important challenges today.

Further, Africa has become one of the fastest growing regions in the world. The needs of African nations are divergent and their strengths varied. These needs will only increase as aspirations increase. Consequently, India has always emphasised that our development partnership should be "demand driven”.

Friends

India is proud of its educational and technical ties with Africa. Every year, thousand of these bright minds come from Africa to our Universities and colleges. These students are the bridge to our future; carrying on a tradition to which many African leaders occupying powerful positions would testify. Several current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents in Africa have attended educational or training institutions in India. Six current or former chiefs of armed forces in Africa trained in India’s military institutions. Several Ministers and those holding important portfolios have attended Indian institutions. Under our capacity building initiatives, thousands of public officials, students, teachers, entrepreneurs, farmers, doctors have been trained or obtained their degrees in India. And this does not include hundreds and thousands of African students who choose India as their preferred destination. In fact, during his State Visit to Kenya in July 2016, Prime Minister Modi interacted with members of ‘Bharatwallah Alumni Association’ (Kenyan students who had studied in India for the last over 50 years.)

I am fond of recalling this particular story. When the Foreign Minister of a close friendly African nation visited India for the JCM, his first phone call after landing in India was to his school teacher in Chennai, who had since retired, returned to India and settled down in Chennai. This sort of brotherhood and kinship is not something one can value in monetary terms. It’s a lifelong association.

Over the years, India’s focus has continued to be on education and capacity building and I can say with a certain degree of pride that it is second to none. Our teachers have been in Africa for generations and made a deep impact. Our Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) has been in place for 55 years now and trains 10,000 every year from over 160 countries. Most of these slots are for Africa. We meet all expenses. We are also introducing shortly e-ITEC and ITEC Executive to keep pace with the increasing demand for capacity building to cater to diverse quarters with diverse requirements.

India is also helping the African countries to bridge the digital divide. The Pan Africa e-Network, was launched in Africa at the continental level in 2009, aimed at harnessing socio-economic benefits of ICT for tele-education and tele-medicine. The first phase of this programme is over and we are now launching the second phase. In fact, my Ministry is spearheading the second phase of the tele-education and tele-medicine project titled E-VBAB e-VidhyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati Network Project, which will offer 15,000 scholarships to African students over the next five years to pursue online short term courses, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from top Indian Universities. E-VBAB portal will be opened soon to all African nationals and will include partner universities and hospitals. I thank the Ministry of HRD for assisting our Ministry. IIT Madras is also closely involved in this project. I am glad that today we will witness the signing of MoUs with some African countries. I will urge others who haven’t done so yet, to do so immediately to avail of this programme.

Why should students from Africa choose India?

First, India and Africa share a bond forged during the anti-colonial struggle and even much before. This link, written in sweat and blood of our forefathers and subsequently reinforced by our Indian peacekeeping force and also the Indian community, inextricably binds us today. Africa is a priority for our foreign policy. This is reflected in intense high level of engagement in the last 5 years under government led by Prime Minister Modi. In fact we have had an unprecedented 32 visits at level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister to Africa in the last 5 years, many of them for the first time, and numerous African Heads of State or Government have also visited India. In the Prime Minister’s words, India’s development partnership with Africa will be based on terms that will "liberate African potential and not constrain African future.”

Second, India has a large number of educational institutes of excellence. Whether one talks about Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management or Regional Engineering Colleges or Universities offering courses in liberal arts and sciences; all these are producing graduates which have contributed to India becoming a 3 Trillion dollar economy. In my interactions, African students have given the feedback that the competitive academic environment and focus on excellence that they felt while studying in India was unmatched.

Third, we truly welcome students from Africa to come and study in India. It can be seen in our liberal visa regime for African students. We also have a liberal visa policy for Africans as most African countries are eligible for e-visas. And those students who don't want to take the flight to come to India can now get an Indian degree from the comfort of his or her home as in the case of tele-education courses of e-VBAB. You will be happy to know that in the last four years in the period of India-Africa Forum Summit 3, more than 40,000 training and capacity building slots have already been utilized out of the 50,000 earmarked over 5 years and, besides our flagship schemes of ITEC and ICCR, we initiated 18 new short term training programs in India and 6 in Africa, exclusively for African candidates.

India has also undertaken the establishment of institutions and training centres which are scattered across the African continent. During the last 4 years, 6 IT Centres were established in South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Lesotho, Ghana, Namibia and Tanzania; a CGARD Technology Centre in Madagascar; 7 Vocational Training Centres were established in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt. A Technology Centre was also established in Zimbabwe. Entrepreneurship Centres are being set up. Several similar projects including a skills development centre are being set up.

Ministry of HRD’s programme ‘Study in India’, which was launched last year, offers foreign students of all backgrounds a unique learning environment anchored in the spirit of friendship and cooperation. ‘Study in India’ is a network of nearly 1000 universities and thousands of colleges. The "Study in India’ is an innovative initiative to bring together various scholarship and self-financing programmes and to attract students from our partner countries, including Africa, to come and experience the very best of academic learning from the top institutions in India.

Friends

My Ministry regularly monitors the issues facing African students in India. While there have been a few localized incidents, and we regret such incidents and are always alert to attend to them promptly, the educational experience for nearly all African students in India been positive. For e.g we have had a Somalian student in India, who later came back here as the Somalian Ambassador to India and served her country with great distinction. Google, Microsoft, Mastercard, Pepsi, Adobe and major fortune 500 corporations have or have had Indians heading them and I see no reason why we should not see more such leaders from Africa emerge soon.

Friends

India and Africa are today emerging with high growth and higher optimism for the future. We need to empower our youth. It cannot be done without education. If all of us work together -- governments, teachers, parents, nonprofits, corporations, school districts, university system – and if we make sure that current youth of India and Africa become the best-educated generation, there is no limit to what they can achieve and there’s no limit to what we, together, can achieve.

I wish CII’s First India-Africa Higher Education and Skills summit great success.

Thank you.

New Delhi
August 26, 2019

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