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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Hamid Ansari's Africa visit aims to broaden India’s outreach efforts

Hamid Ansari's Africa visit aims to broaden India’s outreach efforts

Hamid Ansari's five-day tour of Rwanda and Uganda aims to broaden India's general outreach to resource-rich Africa and establish its footprint in sub-Saharan Africa

Vice-president Hamid Ansari. Photo: PIBPremium
Vice-president Hamid Ansari. Photo: PIB

New Delhi: Vice-president Hamid Ansari left on Sunday on a five-day tour of Rwanda and Uganda in a bid to broaden India’s general outreach to resource-rich Africa and establish its footprint in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ansari will be the first Indian leader to visit Rwanda, where the capital Kigali will be his first stop. His second stop will be Kampala, where the previous bilateral visit was in 1997 by then prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral.

Together, Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee visited 12 African nations in 2016. This was in keeping with Modi’s promise to maintain the tempo of interaction with Africa, made to leaders and representatives to 54 African nations who attended the third India-Africa summit in New Delhi in October 2015.

“During the current government, under our Africa Outreach Initiative we have also had visits to all African countries at ministerial level, except perhaps the Central African Republic. In many of these countries, no high-level visit had taken place for several years," said Neena Malhotra, joint secretary in-charge of East and South Africa in the Indian foreign ministry.

A key partner of African nations in the 1950s and 1960s, India has seen its influence in the region wane. In recent years, it has been trying to regain the ground it has lost in Africa to China and other Asian nations in the past decade. India has positioned itself as a partner of choice to Africa in areas such as healthcare, education, investment and trade.

At the October 2015 summit, Modi promised $10 billion in new concessional credit to Africa, besides $600 million in grant assistance, $100 million to an Africa development fund and $10 million to an India-Africa health fund.

India-Africa trade was almost $70 billion in 2014-15 and Indian investments in Africa in the past decade amounted to $30-35 billion. The figures, however, are pale in comparison with the continent’s trade and investment ties with China, which has built large infrastructure projects like roads, railways, airport and government buildings. Reports say China’s investments in Africa add up to $200 billion.

Ansari’s visit comes about a month after Prime Minister Modi hosted Rwandan President Paul Kigame in Gujarat The two countries could sign an air services agreement during Ansari’s visit that will improve connectivity between India and Rwanda as well as other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Rwanda is an interesting story in Africa. Despite the civil war that took many thousand lives (in the mid-1990s), the country’s economy has turned around and now is seen as one of the success stories in Africa," said Ruchita Beri, heads of the Africa programme at the government-backed Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses think tank in New Delhi.

“India is conveying the message that it is looking at forging partnerships with all African countries—even those who are not traditional partners, without hydrocarbons or those that are Anglophone countries," Beri said. “This is a more proactive diplomacy than we had had in the past," she added.

From Kigali, Ansari will reach Kampala on 21 February. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni was one of the many African heads of state who was in New Delhi for the 2015 India-Africa summit.

“Both Rwanda and Uganda are important from the viewpoint of our trade, especially in the pharmaceuticals, automobiles, mechanical appliances and machinery sectors," joint secretary Malhotra said. “Our trade with Rwanda has doubled over the last five years while we are one of Uganda’s largest trading partners, we are also one of the largest investors in Uganda," Malhotra said.

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Published: 19 Feb 2017, 11:15 PM IST
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