The first India-Africa Summit began on Tuesday with a call from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to work closely with Africa to build a "more equitable global economy and polity" and his announcement of preferential market access for the world’s least-developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa. Singh also called for the 21st century to be turned into the century of Asia and Africa.
India hopes to redress the balance in Africa and counter China's growing clout
In crucial steps that could counter China's growing clout in Africa, India on Tuesday announced preferential market access to exports from 34 of Africa’s least-developed countries and agreed to more than double funding for developing the resource-rich continent.
At the first India-Africa Summit, which began with drumbeats welcoming leaders from 14 African countries, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for close cooperation with Africa to build a "more equitable global economy and polity" and turn the 21st century into the "century of Asia and Africa".
In his inaugural address of the two-day summit, Manmohan Singh stressed the intensification of trade and investment, energy security, capacity-building and infrastructure development as key components of New Delhi's engagement with the African continent.
“The time has come to create a new architecture for our engagement in the 21st century. Working together, the two billion people of India and Africa can set an example of fruitful cooperation in the developing world,” Singh said.
Blueprint for India-Africa dialogue
Two documents -- the Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation -- are to be adopted at the end of the summit. They will provide the "blueprint for India-Africa dialogue and engagement in the 21st century,” according to the prime minister.
The Indian prime minister also underlined the need for India and Africa to have cooperative mechanisms on common international challenges such as UN reform, terrorism, climate change, multilateral trade negotiations, the reform of international financial institutions, as well as food and energy security.
Manmohan Singh announced a slew of measures aimed at invigorating ties with Africa, including the decision to more than double lines of credit: “It is also our intention to enhance the Aid-to-Africa budget of the Ministry of External Affairs for implementing projects in critical areas focusing on human resource development and capacity building. Over the next five to six years, we propose to undertake projects against grants in excess of 500 million dollars.”
Preferential market access
Leaders from 14 African countries lauded India's groundbreaking decision to grant preferential market access to exports from the Africa’s 34 least-developed countries -- a long-standing demand, which has already been granted by China.
Bilateral trade is expected to multiply as a result.
India's trade with Africa is estimated to be around $30 billion -- 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.
India hopes to redress the balance in the future.