Kigali: Africa’s complementary strengths to become a major contributor to India’s energy and food security requirements make the resource-rich continent a “natural economic partner” of the country, Vice President Hamid Ansari today said.
The imperatives that drive Africa-India engagement are based on “shared challenges, common interests, and perceptions of mutual benefit” and come from “our complementary strengths and capacities that make us natural economic and commercial partners,” Ansari said.
“India provides a long-term, stable and profitable market to the goods and services that Africa generates. For India, Africa has the potential to become a major contributor to our energy security and food security requirements. This is a ‘win-win’ situation,” he said.
Addressing a gathering at the University of Rwanda here, he emphasised that India’s 328 million youth, who constitute 28 per cent of its population, like young people everywhere, are “anxious to build a better world.”
“The upsurge in India-Africa relations comes at a time when the world has acknowledged India’s growth story. The rapid growth of our economy over the last 25 years has provided India with additional resources, not only to augment its own developmental efforts, but also to collaborate with our partners in their developmental efforts across the world, and particularly in Africa,” Ansari said.
Ansari said the upsurge takes place also at a time when Africa has “cast-off its image of deprivation and hopelessness and taken control of its own resources and destiny, as winds of progress, peace and participation sweep across this great continent.”
“This new-found confidence and developmental zeal is best demonstrated by your own country (Rwanda) whose economic performance has been termed ‘remarkable’ by the International Monetary Fund,” he said.
Minister of Education of Rwanda Musafiri Papias Malimba and Chancellor of University of Rwanda Mike O’Neal were also present during Ansari’s address, which was his last formal engagement in Rwanda before he departs for Uganda.
He arrived in the east African country on February 19 and has launched a India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme that seeks to cement the “strong ties” between the two countries.
During Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit to India in January an understanding was reached for a new Line of Credit worth USD 80 million for a road project.
“We are also committed to continuing and enhancing the provision of scholarships for training of Rwandan civilians and defence personnel under various technical cooperation and cultural cooperation programmes,” Ansari said. “Our bilateral trade has doubled over the last five years, but at USD 106 million, remains modest and much below its potential.”
The quantum of Indian investments in Africa has increased in recent years and is presently estimated at USD 35 billion.
(Reopens FGN 19)
Ansari yesterday visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial here and lauded the “resilience and courage” of Rwandans in putting behind hatred and moving ahead on the path of reconciliation.
“I say this in the confidence that your generation would have the wisdom to avoid the follies and limitations of the past and look forward instead to a future for our world in which the operative principle would be cooperation rather than contention and the objective would be mutual benefit rather than selfish greed,” he said.
Ansari said India shares with Rwanda, this strong desire to provide stable democratic governance and opportunities for growth and prosperity of people.
“We in India see ourselves as a strong development partner to Rwanda. We are already cooperating in sectors such as solar electrification, food processing, skill development and hydropower projects,” he said.
The vice president has described his two-nation visit a “conscious effort” by India to “intensify interactions” with Africa.
“India is increasingly an important source of investment for projects in Africa, which span diverse sectors such as pharmaceuticals, information technology and telecom, engineering, education, health and agriculture.
Indian private sector has been a pioneer in making investments in Africa, contributing to generation of employment and growth in the countries receiving such investments,” he said.
“Our present choices are informed by our shared experience of anti-colonial struggle against exploitation and racial discrimination.
India, despite the constraints of its growing economy, was a forerunner in championing the interests of developing countries, including those from Africa, through initiatives such as the Bandung declaration of 1955, the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement,” Ansari said.