The third International Conference on “India’s Engagement with North Africa and Horn of Africa: Issues, Initiatives and Prospects”, organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (IWAC) as part of the Indian-African Forum Summit initiatives, was held at the end of last week (March 29-30) at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Addis Ababa. The Conference, which deliberated on India’s engagement with the region, a region with which India had substantial and historic ties, brought together academia, scholars, business leaders and experts from India and the region, to examine the various dimensions of India’s engagement with the region.
Ambassador Dr Markos Tekle, State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, as a guest of honor, delivered a keynote speech, underlining the long-standing friendly relations that had progressed at a fast pace more recently. He noted India had entered into a structured engagement with African countries with the launch of the first Indian African Forum Summit in New Delhi in 2008, followed by a second Summit in Addis Ababa in 2011. The third India–Africa Forum summit, in New Delhi in October 2015, renewed India’s focus on strengthening its partnership with African countries. He also underlined the importance of visits by Indian leaders to Africa including President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Ethiopia in October 2017. This demonstrated India’s desire to intensify high-level dialogue and consultations with Africa.
Ambassador Markos, recalling Ethiopia and India celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations last year, emphasized that Ethiopia sees India as a very important partner. He noted Ethiopia’s relations with India had grown into an all-round development partnership that covered trade, investment, and development assistance in the form of soft loans and technical assistance. They enjoyed, he said, robust trade and investment relations. Currently, Indian investment in Ethiopia was one of the top three countries and the largest in agriculture and the agro-processing sectors. He said India had granted more than USD 1.1 billion in letters of credit to Ethiopia, mainly to finance sugar projects and rural electrification. He also mentioned Ethiopia had benefitted significantly from scholarships and short-term training programs offered by India. He told his audience that Ethiopians were greatly impressed by India’s achievements in maintaining such steady and inspiring progress in fighting poverty especially in the last quarter of a century. He said: “India’s progress in its growing ability to feed its people and in meeting challenges, is now matched by development in many other areas including impressive advances in ICT, Space Science and engineering”. He concluded: “we believe India has a lot to contribute to our region.”
The Ambassador of India to Ethiopia, Djibouti and the African Union Ambassador Anurag Srivastava, welcoming participants and highlighting historic and civilizational links between Africa and India, noted that “India and Africa were part of the same landmass, until India (and Madagascar) separated around 100 million years ago.” He underlined India’s support for African liberation struggles, and noted that since India gained observer status in the AU in 2005, the India-Africa partnership had been taken forward by the India-Africa Forum Summit. 41 Heads of States and Governments had participated in the last Summit in 2015 when India committed itself to deliver concessional credit of US$ 10 billion, implement US$ 600 million in grant projects and provide 50,000 scholarships and training opportunities over the next five years. Achievements against these targets had been fairly satisfactory, he said, with over 9 billion dollars of concessional credit projects completed or being implemented; more than 8,000 Africans travelling to India as part of the training and scholarship opportunities every year; India-Africa trade reaching US$ 63 billion; and with cumulative investment of US$ 54 billion, India was now the 5th largest investor in Africa.
Ambassador Srivastava stressed that, overall, the quality and spirit of India-Africa engagement had been “immensely satisfying”. This was the century of India and Africa, he noted. In 2050, the combined GDP of India and African states would add up to USD 35 trillion and their combined populations would have surpassed 4 billion. Sharing his perspective on India’s engagement with Africa and its future, he said a number of areas of engagement should be strengthened. These would include experience-sharing and expertise; education and training with a focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups; investment, and economic partnerships, in areas of agriculture, agro-processing, ICT, healthcare, education, tourism and renewable energy; and political and strategic relationships as well as people-to-people ties.
Over the course of the two day meeting, the conference examined political and diplomatic relations, trade, economic and developmental cooperation, strategic and security issues and people-to-people linkages. It was organized in four sessions with sub-themes including Political and Diplomatic Relations, Strengthening Trade, Economic and Developmental Cooperation, Strategic and Security Issues in North Africa and Horn of Africa, and the Role and Prospects for Culture, Educational Exchanges, Media and Diaspora.
Ambassador Mahlet Hailu, Permanent Secretary for America, Europe, Asia and Multilateral Affairs of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs chaired the first session of the conference, held under the theme: “Political and Diplomatic Relations: Issues and Perspectives on Global Political Dialogue and Good Governance.” This covered India’s historic and contemporary political linkages with the region, global politics including the issues of reforming the UN and global trade institutions, regional perspectives on democracy and good governance, and exploring the possibilities of cooperation through sharing of experience and capacity building, as well as sharing perspectives on the global political dialogues on climate change, food security, water, cyber and outer space and finding ways of cooperating to shape the related global regimes. Other sessions covered “Strengthening Trade, Economic and Developmental Cooperation”; Strategic and Security Issues in North Africa and Horn of Africa”; and “People-to-People Linkages”.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, London, UK.