Mr. Sanjiv Bajaj,
Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee,
Excellencies, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me say once again how delighted I am to address the Special Plenary of the 17th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on the India-Africa Growth Partnership. This gathering takes place as part of our endeavours to create shared futures. Appropriately, its spirit is one of "Together we grow’’.
2. I thank the CII, the Confederation of Indian Industry and EXIM Bank for once again resuming the holding the flagship event this year in a physical format. This edition too would contribute to generating a buzz in the business communities of India and Africa for our mutual benefit. I understand that a wide ranging and detailed agenda was deliberated upon during the course of the day. Whether it is higher education or skill development, building stronger financial partnerships or strengthening value chains in agriculture and food processing, these are all significant sectors of cooperation between us.
Excellencies, dear friends,
3. India and Africa have longstanding, you could say historic trade and economic linkages which go back into the recesses of time. Whether it is commerce, culture or mobility, there are truly historical linkages that give our contemporary partnership a strong sense of comfort. It is only natural that during the 20th century, India should support African countries in their quest to attain independence and to fight against apartheid. Since then, we have been partners in the journey of nation-building and economic reconstruction. It is our ability to take these goals forward that define the rebalancing that the world is currently undergoing. Obviously, therefore, Africa plays a particularly important role in India’s foreign policy outlook. That is reflected in our expanding diplomatic footprint that today covers 43 African countries. During the last eight years, there has also been a stepped up engagement with the continent, recording 36 high level visits from India and more than 100 similar ones from Africa.
4. Since post-colonial reconstruction is our shared goal, it is only to be expected that development partnership would have primacy in India’s Africa policy. This has been the centre piece of the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) that first commenced in 2008. Since then, the IAFS process has expanded very significantly both in scope and complexity of projects. Particularly after 2015, this intensified engagement underlines Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment to greater equity and sustainable development. The current Indian approach to our cooperation was enunciated by him in Kampala in July 2018. Being a trusted partner in the journey of socio-economic development, India has extended concessional loans of over US$ 12.3 billion to Africa. We have completed 197 projects so far, 65 more are currently under execution and 81 at the pre-execution stage. In addition, India has granted US$ 700 mn of grant assistance. Our development projects in various sectors such as drinking water schemes to irrigation, rural solar electrification, power plants, transmission lines, cement, sugar & textile factories, technology parks, railway infrastructure, etc. have generated local employment and changed the life of many people in Africa.
5. Indeed, the presence of senior dignitaries from African countries today amongst us is itself a reminder of the benefits of cooperation. In Gambia, India has constructed the National Assembly building and undertaken projects in water supply, agriculture and food processing. In Zambia, we have been involved in an important hydro-power project, in the erection of pre-fabricated health posts and in the supply of vehicles. In Mauritius, our recent notable projects include the metro express, the new Supreme Court and social housing. In Namibia, a new Centre of Excellence in IT has just become operational. Whereas in South Sudan, as with so many other African partners, we are focusing on training and education and welcome new opportunities for cooperation.
6. During the pandemic, India continued its engagement with Africa by focusing more on the virtual format. The 15th and 16th editions of the CII-Exim Bank Africa Conclave were accordingly held in that mode. More important, we tried to make a real difference to the continent’s ability to cope with the pandemic. 32 African countries received a 150 tonnes of medical assistance from India. Many of them also utilized ‘Made in India’ vaccines received directly or otherwise from us. At international forums, we have worked together to press for equitable and affordable access to vaccines, including through a TRIPS waiver. Our concerns regarding travel-related discrimination are also very similar.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
7. The importance of human resources in our relationship cannot be overstated. We are committed to enhancing capacity building & skill development among African youth. In this context, you would recall that we had announced 50,000 scholarships during IAFS-III in 2015, out of which more than 32,000 scholarship slots have already been utilized. It is a matter of pride for us that several high ranking leaders, ministers, officials from Africa have studied in Indian universities and other institutions. Apart from these, a number of students and officials from Africa have also been trained under the ITEC program. To provide high quality virtual education and medical services to our partners, the e-VidyaBharti and e-ArogyaBharti networks were launched in 2019 for tele-education and tele-medicine respectively. Under these initiatives, youth from 19 African countries have enrolled for various degree and diploma courses. India has helped African countries to promote digital transformation through setting-up of IT Centres, Science & Technology Parks and Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC). I think there is ample scope in the sphere of technology, and with our emphasis on trust and transparency, India and Africa make natural partners.
8. India has always stood by its friends in times of need. We have extended our support in the form of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), often as a first responder. I would recall a few examples of HADR in the region such as Operation Sahayata to assist cyclone IDAI-hit Mozambique in 2019, Operation Vanilla to provide relief to flood victims in Madagascar in January 2020, the support to Mauritius in containing the oil spill due to the grounding of ship Wakashio. These are but, some examples of our mutually beneficial cooperation. Prime Minister Modi’s initiative for a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), launched in 2019, is also relevant in this context. India invites African countries to join this initiative in greater numbers.
9. India’s experience is obviously useful to our African partners as they embark on their own energy transitions. The International Solar Alliance is a notable platform that has promoted the rapid development of clean energy technologies. This has been followed by the ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ initiative to further promote solar and renewable energy. In recent years, clean and green energy have been increasingly prominent in our development programmes in Africa as also in third country collaborations.
10. On the trade and economic front, India’s bilateral trade with Africa, I believe, has now reached US$ 89.5 billion in 2021-22 compared with USD 56 bn the previous year. With cumulative investments at US$ 73.9 billion from 1996-2021, India is among the top five investors in Africa. Through the Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme that extends duty free access to 98.2 per cent of India’s total tariff lines, India has opened its market to African countries. So far 33 LDC African nations have been entitled to get benefits under this scheme. We hope that the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) which was commenced in 2021 would be helpful to Indian companies to enhance and intensify the business footprint in Africa.
11. The recent turbulence-whether it is the Covid pandemic or the knock-on effects of the Ukraine conflict-obviously hold lessons for our ties too. All nations, big and small, have become more aware of their vulnerabilities and external exposures. The Covid taught us the importance of greater investment in health infrastructure and also in better preparedness. We know too the value of resilient and reliable supply chains so that problems in one geography do not engulf the entire world economy. In terms of responses, the actual potential of digital delivery was demonstrated during the pandemic in different domains as well. It is therefore worth considering how we, India and Africa, how we can make the triad of health, digital and green growth the focus of our collaboration. This is as much a business opportunity as it is a public policy.
12. In India, there is a growing recognition of the need of Atma Nirbharta, self-reliance. Responsible governance today requires that critical needs of people are not held hostage by the vagaries and uncertainties of international markets. Food security and energy security have come into special focus in the context of the Ukraine conflict. Here too, India and Africa can work together for mutual benefit.
13. So ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, let me commend the organizers of this Conclave for the regularity and seriousness of the gathering that brings stakeholders of our relationship together. I am confident that we will all leave from these deliberations more committed and more creative about how we will take our partnership forward.
Thank you for your attention.