India-Africa forum opens today

BY: Ransford Tetteh

All is set for third India-Africa Forum Summit that envisages one of the gatherings of heads of state and governments in the Indian capital in recent years to open today (Thursday).

There is visible presence of foreigners, including over 400 journalists, stretching hospitality facilities to their limits.

New Delhi, noted for its heavy traffic because of the large population, has witnessed an unprecendented increase in the gridlock, with journeys which must be made in minutes taking hours.

Another striking feature in the city is the heavy presence of armed security at all government offices and, especially on roads leading to and from the Indira Gandhi Stadium, the venue of the summit.

A taxi driver, Ashul Singh, expressed delight at the large presence of visitors in the city but was dismayed at the heavy traffic that had slowed down their business.

Setting the tone for the summit was the foreign ministers plenary session yesterday, hosted by the External Affairs Minister of India, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, during which the 54-member states of the Africa Union(AU) presented statements on behalf of their governments.

President attends India-Africa summit
President John Dramani Mahama is in New Delhi to attend the summit, which the organisers said would be graced by over 20 presidents, while the other countries will be represented at the various levels of government.

According to the Indian government, all the 54 countries of Africa had been invited to this year's summit, unlike the two previous ones in Delhi and Addis ababa in 2008 and 2011 respectively that were based on the Banjul Formula which warranted invitation to a few countries.

Welcoming the foreign ministers, Mrs Swaraj said the participation of the African governments in the summit was a testament to the friendly ties between India and Africa.

She reiterated the commitment of the Indian government to a people-centred approach which focused on capacity building, human resource development and technical and financial support for mutually agreed priorities.

Scholarships
"In the past seven years, a total of 40,000 scholarships have been provided by the government of India to Africa. Since the Second India Africa Forum Summit in 2011, the figure stands at over 24,000 scholarships, " she said.

She spoke about growing trade and partnerships in all sectors, especially in agriculture, telecommunications, Information Technologies (IT), pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, saying that such investments brought in capital and technology, and assisted in value addition and industrialisation.

"Today, India and Africa are rising. We are the most rapidly growing developing economies in the world. We are very happy to note the intensification of India-Africa economic engagement in recent years. Our bilateral trade has multiplied 20 times in the last 15 years and doubled in the last five years to reach nearly $72 billion in 2014/2015," she said

Mrs Swaraj also touched on the latest threat to world peace and human security and said, "all our nations find themselves faced with the growing scourge of terrorism. The menace of non-state actors and cross-border terrorism has acquired a new dimension. The scale of this challenge is huge and undermines the peace and stability in our countries, which is essential for our development efforts".

Optimism
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Hanna Tetteh was optimistic that the deliberations at the summit and the outcomes would take into account Africa's own 2063 agenda and the ideals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She said those two initiatives would serve both continental and global benchmarks to promote good governance, inclusiveness and people-centred development for the good of the people of Africa and India.