For the people of India, Africa is also the land of awakening of the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The birth of an independent India in 1947 in turn provided powerful support to the forces of nationalism and decolonisation in Africa. The emergence of Ghana as the first independent country in sub-Saharan Africa in 1957 was followed by the tumultuous decades of the sixties, seventies, and eighties culminating in the end of apartheid in 1994 in the very same land that had created the Mahatma.
Africa is our Mother Continent. The dynamics of geology may have led our lands to drift apart, but history, culture and the processes of post-colonial development have brought us together once again.Ever since independence, our national leaders by such towering personalities as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have been ardent champions of the cause of Indo-African cooperation.
We share a common societal commitment to pluralism, to inclusiveness and to the creation of a world that is fair to all its inhabitants. Our shared vision of the world should enable us to work together on the vital challenges facing humanity. We have coordinated our position in the United Nations and other international forums. No one understands better than India and Africa the imperative need for global institutions to reflect current realities and to build a more equitable global economy and polity.
The objective of our partnership is to cooperate with all the countries of Africa, within the limits of our capacities and capabilities, in their efforts towards achieving economic vibrancy, peace, stability and self-reliance. Towards this end, it is our intention to become a close partner in Africa’s resurgence.
The Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation that we plan to issue at the end of this Summit will provide the blueprint for India-Africa dialogue and engagement in the 21st century.
We recognize the crucial importance of market access in ensuring the development dimension of international trade. Accordingly, I am happy to announce a Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries on the occasion of this Summit. Under this Scheme, India shall unilaterally provide preferential market access for exports from all 50 least developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa. The Scheme will cover 94% of India’s total tariff lines. Specifically, it will provide preferential market access on tariff lines that comprise 92.5% of global exports of all Least Developed Countries. Products of immediate interest to Africa which are covered include cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts, cane sugar, ready-made garments, fish fillets and non-industrial diamonds.
Our cooperation must actively co-opt trade and industry in the processes of growth and development in Africa. Over the last few years, India has acquired considerable experience in undertaking projects in different countries in Africa through extension of concessional lines of credit by the EXIM Bank of India.
It is also our intention to enhance the Aid to Africa budget of the Ministry of External Affairs for implementing projects in critical areas focusing on human resource development and capacity building. Over the next 5 to 6 years, we propose to undertake projects against grants in excess of 500 million dollars.
We will strengthen local capabilities by creating regional and pan-African institutions of higher education, especially in sciences, Information Technology and vocational education and investment in research and development in renewable forms of energy and agricultural development.
We will enhance opportunities for African students to pursue higher studies in India. As an immediate measure we propose to double our long-term scholarships for undergraduates, postgraduates and higher courses and increase the number of training slots under our technical assistance programmes from 1100 to 1600 every year.
Both India and Africa are blessed with young populations. It is only by investing in the creative energies of our youth that the potential of our partnership will be fulfilled. To harness this vast potential, I propose that we work towards the establishment of an India-Africa Volunteer Corps that is devoted to development work. The Volunteer Corps can on a pilot basis identify projects in the areas of public health, informal education and women’s empowerment. As we gather more experience, the scope of activities can be progressively widened.
India’s commitment to peace, stability and socio-economic development in Africa and for it to play an ever-increasing role in international relations is steadfast. The 21st Century is often described as the Asian century. India wishes to see the 21st century as the century of Asia and Africa with the people of the two continents working together to promote inclusive globalisation.