Calling India and Africa natural partners, President Ram Nath Kovind has said that in the last five years there has been an “unprecedented transformation” of India’s political engagement with the resource-rich continent.
Addressing the National Assembly of the Gambia, President Kovind on Wednesday said that in the last five years, Indian leadership has visited 30 African countries at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister.
“There has, indeed, been an unprecedented transformation of our political engagement with Africa,” said the President, who arrived here on Tuesday on the second leg of his three-nation tour.
Before the Gambia, President Kovind visited Benin and would be travelling to the Republic of Guinea. It is the first-ever state visit to these West African countries by an Indian President.
India does not have its embassy these countries. However, the country has decided to open 18 new embassies in Africa, seven of them in West Africa.
“India and Africa are natural partners. In this embrace, we have been guided by our deep historical connect and solidarity. We were honoured to receive 41 Heads of State and Governments at the third India-Africa Forum Summit held in India in 2015. We were equally privileged to host, and for the first time, the African Development Bank Annual Meeting in India in 2017,” he said.
Underlining that India and Africa share the same development challenges and are both driven by similar imperatives, Kovind said, Africa’s economic projection and India’s growth can complement each other.
“Our trade and investment relations are growing. Our bilateral trade stood at over US$ 62 billion for 2017-18. India has become the fifth largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments at over USD 54 billion. The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement launched this month will make Africa the largest free trade area in the world.
India views this development as yet another opportunity to boost economic ties with Africa, he said
The development cooperation, based on African priorities and sustainable partnerships, is a key feature of India’s engagement with the continent, he said.
After South Asia, the African continent is the largest recipient of Indian overseas assistance. 181 Lines of Credit have been extended to 41 countries for a total amount of US$ 11 billion.
He said India’s projects have made a great difference to the quality of life of the African people, all over the African continent.
“Africa and India together represent one-third of humanity. We also represent the bulk of global youth. As the world seeks meaningful solutions to climate change, peace and security and global governance, their voice must be heard. The India-Africa story is one of unprecedented achievement and optimism,” he said.
The National Assembly Building of the Gambia has been built by India under concessional financing arrangement.
“It stands tall as a shining example for India and The Gambia friendship and our shared democratic ethos,” he said.
The President said that India remains committed to strengthening Gambia’s capacity to build institutions and help democracy deliver.