New Delhi: Building upon growing political and economic ties, India and the 54-nation African continent are now poised to expand their cooperation in frontier areas of research, capacity building and knowledge industries.
Empowerment through knowledge and technology was the buzzword at a two-day science and technology conclave here that brought together more than 100 scientists, diplomats and 31 science and technology (S&T) ministers from African countries.
The March 1-2 conclave, at the Vigyan Bhavan convention centre, focussed on building capacities in research and development, social entrepreneurship and innovation technologies.
"There exists an enormous potential for cooperation in science and technology between India and Africa, given the fact that we both are emerging economies, share common problems and have to meet the aspirations of our people," said Jean Pierre O. Ezin, Commissioner, Human Resources, Science and Technology, at the African Union Commission.
He called for strengthening ties between India and Africa in sectors of research and development, human resource development and exchange of technical know-how.
Among the key areas the two sides agreed to work on are all people-related sectors to provide the over two billion population living in India and Africa better living conditions, quality food and water, affordable healthcare and meeting energy needs of two fast-growing economies.
The African Union, which represents 54 nations of the African continent, expressed its keenness to have a long-term strategic partnership with India in science and technology (S&T), given India's "remarkable progress" in this area in the last decade.
"The challenges faced by nations of Africa is similar to ours. Some of our solutions may also be similar," India's S&T and Earth Sciences Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told the conference, and flagged social entrepreneurship and innovation as key areas for collaboration.
At the end of the conference, hosted by the Indian ministries of S&T and external affairs, the ministers from India and Africa adopted a declaration that reaffirmed the commitments for a strong engagement made at the India-Africa Forum Summits, recalled their common challenges and growth potential, and outlined means to achieve development by becoming knowledge economies.
The areas identified for future cooperation included capacity building, with India assisting the Commission of the AU and Regional Economic Communities by providing training and other capacity interventions towards improving policy enabling environment in the African nations.
With India being the lead thematic partner at the Pan African University's Institute of Earth and Life Sciences in the Western African region at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, it was agreed to enhance interactions between researchers from both sides, apart from an outreach programme in African countries for the C.V. Raman Scholarship and Fellowship Programmes.
The conference also explored institutional relationships of Indian scientific establishments with Institute Pasteur in Tunis, Institute of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at Benin, and School of Science and Technology at Masuku in Gabon. India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will help Mozambique to set up a similar institution.
The foundation of cooperation in science and technology was laid during the India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in 2008. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced substantive commitments of India to engage with African nations during the second summit in Addis Ababa in 2011.
India has committed USD 5 billion in lines of credit for the next three years to help Africa to achieve its development goals. An additional USD 700 million was pledged to establish new institutions and training programmes. Of this, USD 185 million was set aside for science and technology.
Among those who provided fillip to the India-Africa science diplomacy at the conference were Egypt's Minister of Scientific Research Nadia Eskander Zakhary, who is also the chair of the African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology (AMCOST), India's Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, Minister of State for S&T Ashwani Kumar, and former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor.