India-Africa ties in `transformational phase`

India`s ties with Africa are in a "transformational phase" and its efforts are radically different from what any other country is doing in the vast and quickly changing continent, a senior official said here.

Last Updated: Dec 12, 2010, 11:31 AM IST

New Delhi: India`s ties with Africa are in a "transformational phase" and its efforts are radically different from what any other country is doing in the vast and quickly changing continent, a senior official said here.

The Indian government`s challenge was to convert warm political relations with the 53-nation continent into productive economic ties, he said.

"A successful foreign policy has to transform political ties into a modern functional one," said Gurjit Singh, Joint Secretary (East and Southern Africa) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Addressing students at the Asia Pacific Institute of Management here Saturday, Singh said relations between India and Africa were in a "transformational phase" and will be a "major challenge" in the coming years.

"What we are doing in Africa is very different from what anybody else is doing," he said without naming China which is increasing its presence in Africa through massive aid and infrastructure investment.

He referred to India`s policy of not only developing bilateral relations with each of the 53 African countries but also engaging with the continent at the regional level, including its strong partnership with the African Union (AU).

Singh noted that trade volume between India and Africa had reached USD 40 billion a year, but there was no consensus regarding Indian investment in the continent.

"RBI (Reserve Bank of India) says that Indian investment (in Africa) is USD 11 billion, while CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) says that it is USD 29 billion and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) estimates it at USD 106 billion," he said.

The wide range in the estimates, Singh said, was due to Indian companies going through multinational channels while investing in Africa.

He pointed out that India`s approach to Africa was in capacity building, based on the requests and needs of Africans. "We are planning to set up 21 training institutes across Africa," said Singh.

These include four pan-African institutes in different sectors, along with regional vocational training centres and human settlement institutes.

This is a consequence of the 2006 India-AU summit, during which India had announced a series of measures, including doubling of soft loans to Africa and increasing the number of scholarships for African students.

The next summit will be held in 2011.

IANS