New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Africa this week where he will visit 3 African countries --Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa. Following his bilateral visits to 2 countries in East Africa, he will take part in BRICS summit in South Africa. This will be the second visit of Prime Minister Modi to Africa. During his first visit, he visited 6 African countries.
He will begin his visit from Rwanda which will be from 23rd to 24th July followed by Uganda from 24th to 25th July and finally will end his visit in South Africa where he will take part in 10th BRICS summit.
Prime Minister’s official engagement in Rwanda and Uganda include bilateral meetings with the Presidents, delegation level talks, and meetings with the business and the Indian communities. According to a release by the Ministry of External Affairs, "A number of agreements and MoUs in the areas of Defence, trade, culture, Agriculture and Dairy cooperation are scheduled to be signed during the visits."
The Indian PM will begin his Africa visit from Rwanda. This will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Rwanda. Other than the official engagements, the Prime Minister will also visit the Genocide Memorial. Rwandan genocide in 1994 has been a tragic moment in the history of the country in which an estimated 1 lakh people were killed. Thankfully not a single Indian was harmed during the genocide of 1994 and the evacuation of Indian nationals by the Indian Government from Rwanda to Bujumbura and Nairobi was not interfered with by Rwandan Patriotic Front or the Government forces.
India elevated its bilateral relations with Rwanda to the level of a strategic partnership in January 2017. A regular visitor in India, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame visited Delhi in Jan 2017 to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 and later in March 2018 to participate in the Founding Conference of International Solar Alliance (ISA). Rwanda is part of India led International solar alliance and has ratified the Framework Agreement of International Solar Alliance.
Paul Kagame has visited India four times during his tenure, thrice in his private capacity. There are approximately 3000 Indian nationals and PIOs in Rwanda and the country's only sugar refinery, its only modern textile mill as well as a soap and cosmetic factory are all PIO-owned. In June 2016, an Indian company, Aroma International, announced an investment of about $ 1 million in the laundry and detergent sector of Rwanda.
India right now doesn't have a mission in Rwanda but will be opening its Mission in Rwanda very soon. In fact, India announced its envoy last week only. India will conclude two LoCs – one of US$ 100 million for development of industrial parks and Kigali SEZ and another for US$ 100 million for agriculture and irrigation during the visit of Prime Minister.
India to give 200 Cows to Rwanda
PM Modi will visit Rweru model village in the country and gift 200 cows as a contribution from India to the Girinka scheme of Rwanda. "Girinka” or one cow per family is a national social protection scheme of Rwanda personally initiated by President Paul Kagame. The poorest families are gifted dairy cows by the Government and the first female calf born of the cow is gifted to the neighbour. All cows will be Rwandan cows.
Why Rwanda Matters?
Rwanda is considered an important gateway to East Africa. The currently holds the Chair of African Union and hosted the Assembly of the African Union in March 2018 in Kigali where African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area was signed. 44 members of the African Union signed the Agreement. Once ratified, the Agreement would be the largest Free Trade Area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Rwanda has played an important role in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and is the third largest troop contributor for peacekeeping in Africa. The country plays an important role in the UN Mission (MINUSCA) in Central African Republic.
This will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Uganda in over 21 years. The last time an Indian PM visited Uganda was in the year 1997. Prime Minister will address at Parliament of Uganda thus becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to address it. His address will be telecasted live in India and in many African countries.
Engagements, especially on defense, have continued. Training and capacity building has been the focus of bilateral defence cooperation. India has an Indian Military Training Team (IMTT) stationed at Jinja since 2010. India is expected to extend two lines of credit of US$ 141 million for electricity lines and US$ 64 million for agriculture and dairy production. This will be for the first time India will extend LoC to Uganda.
Uganda is currently Chair of East African Community and its capital Kampala can be base of Indian investments in East Africa.
There are over 30,000 Indians / PIOs in Uganda. During the reign of President Amin in early 70’s, nearly 60,000 Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Indians were expelled from Uganda. After Adi Amin's leading to an exodus of Indian origin people from the country, it was President Museveni who was responsible for inviting much of Indian community to return to the country assuring them of their safety and security. He has also been hosting the Indian community for Diwali dinners in the State House.
PIOs and NRIs are estimated to have invested over US$ 1 billion in Uganda in the last two decades. Indian Nationals/PIOs who constitute about 0.1% of Uganda’s total population of 35 million, contribute about 60% of Uganda’s direct taxes as per statistics of the Bank of Uganda and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
South Africa: 10th BRICS Summit
In South Africa, the Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with the South African President and will attend the BRICS Summit. He will also have a bilateral meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, his 3rd since the Doklam standoff.
South Africa is organizing 10th BRICS Leaders’ Summit under the theme “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration with Developing Countries for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4thIndustrial Revolution”. Other than BRICS, PM Modi will participate in Outreach with Leaders from Africa & Outreach with Leaders from Global South summit.
In the BRICS Africa Outreach, those invited include Rwanda, Uganda, Togo, Zambia, Namibia, Senegal, Gabon, Ethiopia, Angola, and the African Union Chair; In the BRICS Plus Outreach, the invited countries of the Global South include Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, Jamaica and Egypt. The UN Secretary-General has also been invited. Clearly, many heads of states are expected to converge in Johannesburg.
According to MEA BRICS Leaders are expected to discuss "global hot-spot issues, international peace, and security, global governance, trade issues during the restricted session".
BRICS RATING AGENCY: An Indian Idea
The idea of BRICS rating agency will also be taken up during the summit and it was confirmed by Secretary Economic Relations in MEA, TS Tirumurti to WION. India has been pressing forward on the idea and it was taken up during the 1st meeting of BRICS Finance ministers and central bank governors on the sidelines of IMF/World ban meetings in Washington in April this year.
The Indian finance ministry said in a statement in April that India, 'requested the Presidency to receive and take forward the report to be submitted by an expert group set up under the aegis of BRICS Business Council to study the feasibility of the BRICS Rating Agency"
The idea was proposed by India given the fact that 3 western rating agencies --S&P, Moody's and Fitch--dominate the rating market. The Idea of BRICS bank or New Development bank was also proposed by India during the 4th BRICS summit in 2012 in Delhi.
India and China in Africa!
It is interesting to note that the Chinese President will also be on many African nation visits. His visit will coincide with a week-long visit of Indian PM. In a release ahead of Chinese President's visit, Chinese foreign ministry said,"The visits will promote the further deepening of political mutual trust, mutual development assistance, mutual learning on each other's concepts between China and Africa and the building of a closer China-Africa community of common destiny."
Currently, China is funding infrastructure projects in Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa. But with support comes debt and Chinese debt has been creating a lot of issues globally--including on national sovereignty. Chinese Chequebook diplomacy has come under criticism.
In Rwanda, even as the Chinese President's plane will take off, Indian PM's plane will land. While Chinese President will be in Rwanda from July 22nd to 23rd, Indian PM will be in the country from July 23rd to 24th. Chinese President will visit Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and Mauritius. Like in the case of India, this is the first time any Chinese president is visiting Rwanda.
In a release, Rwanda said, " Discussions will touch upon continental matters in the context of the African Union, which President Kagame currently chairs. China and India are among Africa's most important and fast-growing economic partners".
China is increasing its presence in Africa and is the largest trading partner of Africa now. But is this a worry for India.. Reacting to a question on Chinese President Xi Jinping and PM Modi presence in East Africa at the same time MEA said, "we don't see ourself in competition with China".
India shares close, warm and friendly relations with Africa and a large presence of the Indian Diaspora and Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi's link with South Africa only cements the ties. But increasingly both China and India are hoping to get a piece in Africa's economic and political space. Africa has been the top priority for both country's Foreign Policy.
MODI-XI Meet in South Africa
PM Modi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in South Africa on the sidelines of BRICS Summit. Confirming the meet, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said, "on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, President Xi Jinping is expected to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of relevant countries, including Indian Prime Minister Modi. We are still making relevant arrangements.".
This would be the third meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi since their informal meeting in Wuhan in April. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry during the meet both the leaders "will exchange views on issues of mutual interest, including on international situation, bilateral relations and BRICS cooperation."
Ever since the Doklam standoff last year, India and China are trying to engage with each other. The Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui in New Delhi recently said, "we could not stand another Doklam incident". Hoping for a peaceful border he added, "boundary question between our two countries was left over by history. We need to build on convergence to find a mutual acceptable solution through the Special Representatives' Meeting while adopting confidence-building measures to maintain the peace and tranquility along the border."
It's Time For Africa, In India
Over the last few years, there has been a significant intensification of India's engagement in various fields with African countries. There have been 23 outgoing visits to Africa at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister in the last four years. More than 40 Heads of State and Government took part at the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit in October 2015 in New Delhi. Several African Heads of State and Government took part in the International Solar Alliance Founding Conference in March 2018 in Delhi.