By Prashant Sood
Gandhinagar, May 23 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that Africa was a top priority for his government’s foreign and economic policy and India will always stand shoulder to shoulder with countries of the continent in the long and difficult race for a better future.
Inaugurating the 52nd Annual Meetings of the African Development bank (AfDB) at Mahatma Mandir here, Modi said India’s partnership with African countries was free of any conditions and will remain demand-driven.
Modi said India and Africa face similar development challenges and the mutual ties had become stronger over the decades.
“After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy,” he said.
The Prime Minister referred to his government’s efforts to meet India’s development challenges since assuming office in 2014 and said no village in the country will be without electricity by next year.
Modi said India has improved on all macro-economic indicators in the last three years with fiscal deficit, balance of payments deficit, and inflation being down and an increase in GDP growth rate, foreign exchange reserves and public capital investment.
The five-day annual meeting of AfDB, being held in India for the first time, is being attended by 54 African regional members and 27 non-regional member countries of the organisation.
Around 3,000 delegates are taking part in the event with the theme ‘Transforming Agriculture for wealth creation in Africa’.
Modi said he was proud that all countries in Africa had been visited by an Indian Minister in the last three years.
“India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries. It is demand-driven and free of conditions,” he said.
Modi also referred to prowess of African countries in long distance running and linked it to the race for development.
“In the sports arena, India cannot compete with Africa in long distance running. But I can assure you that India will always stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, supporting you in the long and difficult race for a better future,” he said.
Modi said India offered $10 billion for development projects over the next five years during the India-Africa Summit held in 2015 in New Delhi which was attended by all 54 African countries.
Terming 2015 as a “watershed”, he said India had also offered grant assistance of $600 million to the African countries.
He said India has extended 152 lines of credit to 44 countries of nearly $8 billion.
Trade between Africa and India has doubled in the last five years to reach nearly $72 billion in 2014-15. India’s commodity trade with Africa in 2015-16 was higher than its commodity trade with the United States of America.
India is the fifth largest country investing in the continent, with investments over the past 20 years amounting to $54 billion. Africa accounted for nearly one-fifth of Indian overseas direct investments from 1996 to 2016.
India joined the African Development Fund in 1982 and the African Development Bank in 1983.
Modi said India’s private sector was also driving partnership with Africa.
He referred to “solar mamas”, under which training is imparted to African women to work on solar panels and circuits.
“It is one of our best partnerships in the area of skills.”
Sharing India’s experiences in meeting common challenges such as uplifting farmers and the poor, financial access and building infrastructure, Modi said paying subsidies directly had helped his government save over $4 billion dollars in cooking gas.
He also referred to “universal banking” achieved in the last three years as also universal biometric identification system Aadhaar being used to prevent leakage of benefits.
Modi said his government has made unprecedented increases in the last three years in investment in railways, highways, power, and gas pipelines.
He said the government’s initiatives such as Smart Cities, Housing for All and Skill India were preparing for a modern new India.
“Our aim is that India must be an engine of growth as well as an example in climate friendly development in the years to come.”
Earlier in his speech, Modi referred to common bonds between Gujarat and Africa.
“As an Indian and a Gujarati, I am very happy that this meeting is being held in India and that too in Gujarat,” Modi said.
He said Mahatma Gandhi, another Gujarati, perfected his tools of non-violent struggle in South Africa.