India blends market access, development funds to win Africa

April 8th, 2008 - 5:45 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
(Third Lead)

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) In crucial steps that can counter China’s growing clout in Africa, India Tuesday announced preferential market access to exports from 34 least developed African countries and agreed to more than double financial package for development of the resource-rich continent. At the first India-Africa Summit Tuesday, which began with drum beats welcoming leaders from 14 African countries, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for working closely with Africa to build a “more equitable global economy and polity” and turning the 21st century into a “century of Asia and Africa”.

In his inaugural address at the two-day summit, Manmohan Singh stressed on the intensification of trade and investment, energy security, capacity-building and infrastructure development as key components of New Delhi’s engagement with the continent.

Two documents, including the Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation, which will be adopted at the end of the summit Wednesday, will provide the “blueprint for India-Africa dialogue and engagement in the 21st century”, Manmohan Singh said.

Describing Africa as “our mother continent” and the “land of awakening”, Manmohan Singh said: “It is our intention to become a close partner in Africa’s resurgence.”

Pitching vigorously for Africa’s rightful place in an expanded UN Security Council, the prime minister said: “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 time has come to create a new architecture for our engagement in the 21st century. We visualise a partnership that is anchored in the fundamental principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit,” he said.

“Working together, the two billion people of India and Africa can set an example of fruitful cooperation in the developing world,” Manmohan Singh told the African leaders.

The prime minister also underlined the need for India and Africa to have cooperative mechanisms on common challenges like the UN reforms, terrorism, climate change, multilateral trade negotiations, reform of international financial institutions, food security and energy security.

Manmohan Singh announced a slew of measures aimed at invigorating ties with Africa. These include more than doubling lines of credit to $5.4 billion over the next five years and increasing ‘Aid to Africa’ budget by investing over $500 million in projects related to capacity building and human resource development.

Other key steps designed to underline India’s focus on education and development in Africa included doubling long-term scholarships for higher education, increasing the number of training slots under technical assistance programmes from 1,100 to 1,600 every year, and developing infrastructure projects in the continent.

Leaders from many African countries lauded India’s ground-breaking decision to grant preferential market access to exports from 34 least developed African countries - a long-standing demand from African countries and one that was granted by China a while ago. This has the potential of multiplying bilateral trade between the two sides.

The duty-free tariff preference scheme, under which India will unilaterally provide preferential market access for exports to 50 LDCs, including 34 African countries, will cover 94 percent of India’s total tariff lines.

African exports of cotton, cocoa, aluminium and copper ores, cashew nuts, sugar, readymade garments, fish fillets and non-industrial diamonds will receive a big boost from the new regime of preferential market access.

This combination of enhanced developmental package and human resource development aimed at the empowerment of Africa could prove to be an effective counter against China’s growing economic clout in the African continent.

India’s trade with Africa is estimated to be around $30 billion which is half of what China has with the continent. China has also struck lucrative energy and infrastructure deals in the oil-rich countries like Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and Chad.

African leaders also acknowledged India’s development-oriented approach towards Africa and recalled India’s special bonds with Africa, going back to shared struggle against apartheid and colonialism.

South African President Thabo Mbeki lauded India for its help in the reconstruction of African countries and stressed on increased cooperation between the two sides in areas of the UN reforms.

“We are looking forward to a synergy that will enable us to fight disease, hunger and ignorance,” said Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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