Africa : News, Disscussion & Updates

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India makes efforts to re-establish ties with Libya; Rijiju to visit
India is making an attempt to re-establish its diplomatic relations with Libya, with Union Minister Kiren Rijiju embarking on an official visit to the North African country beginning Tuesday. India's relations with Libya were snapped after the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011. New Delhi does not have any representative in Tripoli for the last few years nor does Libya have an envoy in New Delhi.

"First time India will establish contact with Government of Libya after the civil war and the end of Col Gaddafi's long rule," Rijiju told PTI here today. During his two-day visit, he is expected to meet top leadership of Libya and interact with the Indian diaspora which continues to live in the conflict-hit country.

There are still around 1,500 Indian nationals, who have decided to stay back and continue with their jobs, despite the advisories issued by the External Affairs Ministry asking them to leave Libya.

"It is an initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs to establish diplomatic contacts with those countries with whom India is not having and could not have proper relations so far," Rijiju said. The minister will be accompanied by Indian Ambassador to Tunisia Prashant Pise, who is also holding additional charge of Libya. India first established its diplomatic mission in Tripoli in 1969. The high point of Indo-Libya relations was the visit of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Libya in 1984.

After Gaddafi's killing on October 20, 2011, Libya was formally declared "liberated" on October 23, 2011. In November, 2011 the interim government - National Transitional Council (NTC) was formed and India's formal recognition to the NTC was conveyed on November 16, 2011.

In his second leg of the tour, Rijiju will visit Tunisia from May 10 to 11 and meet the country's leadership and the Indian disaspora there. His visit to the two North African countries comes as part of the External Affairs Ministry's plan to reach out to 68 countries that have not been visited by any political representative of the current government.

Many ministers have visited the US, the UK, China, Japan, Germany etc but the NDA government wants that the ministers should also visit other nations for better international cooperation and understanding. Of the over 190 countries in the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited around 50 at least once, and, according to officials, wants his ministers to contribute in improving foreign relations through their respective ministries.

Exports by India to Libya during the period 2015-16 stood at USD 122.58 million. On the other hand, imports by India from Libya for 2015-16 were to the tune USD 8.86 million. The bilateral trade went down mainly because of the ongoing political and civil strife in Libya since July 2014 and decrease in oil production. The main items of India's exports to Libya are stone, plaster, tobacco, coffee, drugs and pharmaceuticals, and other commodities. The main item of India's imports from Libya is petroleum (crude and products) and aluminum ores.

The first resident Indian mission at the level of charge d'affaires was established in Tunisia in 1963 and raised to the Ambassador level in 1976. The Tunisian Embassy in New Delhi was set up in 1981. Several high-level visits took place in this period. Notable among them were that of Indira Gandhi in April 1984, and then prime minister Narasimha Rao in 1992.

Tunisia has been a reliable source for phosphates. India accounts for around 50 percent of Tunisia's global phosphoric acid exports.
India, on the other hand, exports a wide range of products. Significant among them are automobiles, electrical items, cotton, mechanical engines, rubber, rice, coffee, spices etc. The annual bilateral trade during 2016 was 370.46 million.
India makes efforts to re-establish ties with Libya; Rijiju to visit
 

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India Inc invests over $4 billion in South Africa
As many as 140 Indian companies with operations in South Africa have invested more than USD 4 billion and created 18,000 direct jobs, according to a report released today.


The CII-PwC report showcased the contribution of Indian companies beyond foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa, including key CSR and skill development initiatives.

According to the report, there exists substantial potential for trade growth between the two countries.

Exports from India to South Africa include vehicle parts, transport equipment, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, footwear, chemicals, textiles and rice.

The report noted that value of bilateral trade has increased from USD 2.5 billion in 2003-04 to USD 11.79 billion in 2014-15, a growth of more than 400 in ten years.

However, trade between the two countries declined slightly to USD 9.5 billion in 2015-2016.

A number of factors explain this decline, including South Africa's credit rating downgrade, policy uncertainty, political and economic uncertainty as well as exchange rate fluctuations, the report said.

It projected that Indian business footprint in South Africa is likely to grow further, adding the South African business footprint in India is also expanding with the prospect of great returns for the African companies investing in this market.

"Leading Indian companies such as WiproNSE -0.57 %, Coal India, Cipla, Jindal Steel and Power, Mahindra and Mahindra have recently made investments in South Africa," said CII in the report.

It further claimed that in the healthcare sector, the entry of Indian pharma companies Ranbaxy and Cipla brought in drastic reduction in the cost of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) in South Africa, saving thousands of lives.


"As this report outlines, Indian companies are demonstrating their commitment to sustainable development in South Africa across education and healthcare schemes to job creation, agricultural projects and empowering women," said Dion Shango, Senior Regional Partner & CEO PwC Southern Africa.
India Inc invests over $4 billion in South Africa
 

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Middle East, Africa seek India’s help to light up their villages
Impressed by India’s rural electrification drive, West Asian countries such as Jordan and Syria and some countries in sub-Saharan Africa have evinced interest in state-run Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) bringing electricity to their villages, said a person aware of the development.

This comes in the backdrop of electricity finally reaching all of India’s 597,464 census villages on 28 April, setting the stage for universal household electrification. REC, India’s largest power sector lender, is the nodal agency that executed the scheme.

“Given our experience and expertise in the field of electrification, we are prepared to provide a range of services and financing for developing power sector in other emerging economies,” said P.V. Ramesh, chairman and managing director, REC.

The interest from Syria is for the electrification reconstruction work, given that its power sector has been badly affected due to the civil war. The West Asian country has witnessed a bloody civil war over the last seven years. The unrest began as the so-called Arab Spring or pro-democracy protests that overthrew long-ruling presidents of Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the region spread to Syria with the opposition Syrian National Council fighting to overthrow the country’s President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

India has been looking at rebuilding infrastructure in Syria, including a power plant in the country, Mint reported on 12 August 2016. “We will extend our support and help in such countries,” said an REC executive who didn’t want to be named.

With some areas in Jordan yet to be electrified, the country has sought REC’s help. Also, some sub-Saharan African countries are interested in REC doing the entire rural electrification package ranging from financing to technology transfer, detailed project report (DPR) preparation to execution.

In the nine months to December, REC’s loan book was Rs2.24 trillion, with a net worth of Rs36,567 crore.
India has been stepping up its engagement with Jordan, seen as part of India’s extended neighbourhood to its west. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Gulf Arab states of Jordan, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates and Oman in February this year.

“We are working in some countries in areas of transmission through Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL). We are willing to provide consultancy to those who seek assistance through the consulting arms of PGCIL and REC,” said power secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.

State-run PGCIL is already present in 20 countries with its consultancy business. Some of its clients are in countries such as Kenya, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. A case in point being PGCIL implementing the 220KV transmission link in Afghanistan from Kabul to Pul-e-Khumri that brings power from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan.

Queries emailed to India’s ministry of external affairs and Syrian embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday remained unanswered. Jordan’s embassy in New Delhi couldn’t be reached. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had set a target to achieve universal household electrification by 31 March 2019. With electricity reaching all 597,464 census villages last month, the government’s focus is now on providing electricity connections under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya). The government plans to provide electricity connections to all Indian homes by December 2018, with REC being the nodal agency for implementing Saubhagya.
Middle East, Africa seek India’s help to light up their villages
 

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India takes convention centre route to Africa
India has for the first time embarked on a unique initiative to build convention centres across 21 African countries, an exercise that was hitherto considered a success story for China.

Beginning with Niger in western Africa, India is on a mission mode to set up a convention centre enabling Niamey (capital city) to host the African Union Summit in 2019.

Unlike the model followed by Africa’s other partners (read China), India’s initiative is demand driven, upon request from its partners in continent, said persons familiar with the process.

Convention centres will also be set up on a priority basis in eight other African nations — Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo, Gabon and Liberia upon their request, ET has learnt. This will be followed by such grand centres in 12 other African nations.

Neither of these 21 countries have world class convention centres where they can host sub-regional or Pan-African political summits and mega-business meets.

Building convention centres have so far been the forte of China, especially in South Asia — Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — and elsewhere.

India enjoys enormous goodwill in Africa based on its training modules and scholarships for African nationals. Besides Indian business enterprises are expanding footprints in the continent. But this is the first time that India is embarking on infrastructure building initiatives.

In the past, India has created Presidential Palace in Ghana, Parliament in Ghana, besides the Parliament building in Afghanistan. India is also setting up the Parliament building in Swaziland as decided during President Ram Nath Kovind’s recent visit to the southern African country.

These centres, to be built entirely by grants from India, will be named as Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centres and is the brainchild of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, ET has learnt. The initiative is being launched on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatama Gandhi.

These centres, to be built entirely by grants from India, will be named as Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centres and is the brainchild of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, ET has learnt. The initiative is being launched on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatama Gandhi.

ET has learnt that Delhi’s suggestion to name the convention centres under Mahatma Gandhi was accepted despite the fact he is not a national figure of those countries. However, Mahatma Gandhi enjoys iconic status in Africa and this enabled the acceptance of Modi government’s suggestion.

These centres will follow local customs, requirements and architectural designs. “The convention centres will be symbols of long lasting Indian presence in Africa showcasing support and friendship for the continent,” said one of the persons quoted above.

While Indian firms will build convention centres, land for the same will be allotted by the local governments. The ventures are also expected to create local employment through sub-contracts and associated.

While Kovind has visited Africa thrice since being elected to office — all his three foreign visits being to Africa — Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu will visit countries in southern Africa in the near future. PM Modi, who will be in South Africa in July for the BRICS Summit, will also visit two other countries during that trip. He is also expected to visit Egypt in Northern Africa this year.
India takes convention centre route to Africa
 

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Angola keen on Six more Ex-IAF Su-30s
The Força Aérea Nacional de Angola (FANA – National Air Force of Angola) which took deliveries of 10 Su-30KN earlier this year and Two in the previous year is keen on the purchasing of Six more Su-30K which were formerly operated by the Indian Air Force.

IAF had procured 18 Su-30K (Su-27UB trainers) from Russia as an interim measure to train its crew to fly much more advanced Su-30MKIs. Due to economical reasons, all 18 older Su-30Ks were returned back and not upgraded to MKI Standards which were later replaced by Su-30MKI by Russia in 2006.

18 Su-30Ks were Stored at 558 Aviation Repair Plant in Belarus’ Baranovichi for 8 years before Angola agreed to purchase them with minor upgrades. The first ex-Indian Air Force Su-30K destined for Angola made its first flight after an overhaul in early February 2017 and first two were delivered in 2017 and the rest in early 2018.
Angola keen on Six more Ex-IAF Su-30s – Indian Defence Research Wing
 

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A look at India's relationship with African nations as PM Modi begins 5-day tour
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday will kickstart his five-day tour to African nations including Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa to discuss key global issues, including international peace and security.

During the visit, PM Modi will attend the 10th edition of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, where world leaders will deliberate on global hot-spot issues, international peace and security, global governance and trade issues.

While the PM's visit to these nations is likely to strengthen relations, here's a look at how the equation has been in the past:

The roots of India-South Africa relations goes back to the time when the country extended its consistent support to the anti-apartheid struggle. Since then, there has been a steady consolidation of friendly ties with South Africa, bilaterally and through BRICS, IBSA and other fora.

A number of bilateral agreements have been concluded between the two countries since assumption of diplomatic relations in 1993 in diverse areas ranging from economic and commercial cooperation, defence, culture, health, human settlements, public administration, science and technology and education.

Commercial relations between the two countries have also flourished since the establishment of diplomatic relations. India imports gold, steam coal, copper ores and concentrates, aluminium ingots among others from South Africa.

The country exports vehicles and components thereof, transport equipment, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, footwear, dyes and intermediates, chemicals, textiles, rice, gems and jewellery to South Africa.

> India and Uganda

The bilateral relations between India and Uganda are characterised by extensive economic and trade interests with a bilateral trade of nearly $ 1.3 billion and a convergence on major bilateral and international issues. A Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between India and Uganda is in effect since 2004.

India has consistently been one of the top investors in Uganda. In terms of planned FDI Investments, India has consistently been among the top three FDI sources.

The major items of India's exports to Uganda include pharmaceuticals, bicycles and bicycle parts, automobile components, small industry and agro-processing machinery, two-wheelers, textiles, tyres and sports equipment. Uganda imports almost 30 percent of its pharmaceuticals from India.

India's imports from Uganda include, among others, tea, wood and wood products.

> India and Rwanda

The prime minister's visit to Rwanda will be "historic" as it is the first visit by an Indian premier. Bilateral relations between India and Rwanda have been cordial and grown steadily over the years.

India’s engagement with Rwanda is at three levels — the African Union (AU) level, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) level and at the bilateral level.

Bilateral trade stood at $48.43 million in FY12, registering a growth of 49 percent over trade volume of $32.49 million in the previous year.

The major items of India’s exports to Rwanda include pharmaceuticals, vehicles including motorcycles, plastics and machinery.
A look at India's relationship with African nations as PM Modi begins 5-day tour
 

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India to give 250 e-rickshaws to Senegal in bid to boost clean energy ties
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Friday handed over two e-rickshaws to the Ambassador of Senegal in New Delhi in a gesture symbolising the partnership between the two countries in the clean energy sector.
India is supplying 250 e-rickshaws with lithium-ion batteries on grant basis to Senegal, responding to the request of Senegal President Macky Sall to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.

The supply of 250 e-rickshaws is expected to assist Senegal in adopting clean and efficient energy sources in the area of urban public transport, it said.

At the event, Swaraj and Ambassador of Senegal to India EL Hadji Ibou Boye also took a ride on an e-rickshaw.
The Ambassador thanked India, saying people of his country will be very happy to receive the vehicles.

"Please accept my thanks and gratitude for this gift of 250 e-rickshaw to my country. People of Senegal will be very happy to receive these vehicles which will be a novelty for them as an environment friendly option," Boye said.
He hoped e-rickshaws will gain popularity in Senegal and soon become a common sight on the roads of the country.

The relations between India and Senegal are "long standing and historic" and cooperation between the two countries has gone from strength to strength over the years, he said.

The President of Senegal had taken a liking to the e-rickshaw after seeing them on Indian roads.
Later, during a meeting with Prime Minster Modi, he had requested for the supply of the tricycle. Prime Minister Modi had happily agreed for the supply of 250 e-rickshaws to Senegal, said T S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations), MEA.

India enjoys very "warm and close relations" with Senegal and over the years the two countries have developed a "very strong" development partnership, he said.

"I hope the clean energy initiative undertaken by India and Senegal will not only transform our public transport system but also make a difference to the lives of the common man and those plying the e-rickshaws," he said.

The e-rickshaws to be supplied to Senegal were manufactured by Goenka Electric Motor Vehicles Private Limited.
India to give 250 e-rickshaws to Senegal in bid to boost clean energy ties
 

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Europe, Japan, US, UAE prefer India for joint infrastructure projects in Africa
India has edged out China as the preferred partner for key European nations, Japan and the United Arab Emirates for joint infrastructure and capacity building projects in Africa.

The UAE, France, Germany, UK and Italy are in talks with India to launch joint projects in Africa owing to India’s goodwill created by funding demand driven projects and providing concessional loans for various sectors, according to people aware of the matter.

On the other hand, they said, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is facing a pushback in Africa, with some countries cancelling or going slow on projects owing to huge debts.

Japan, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Tokyo, announced a mega health project in Kenya that will be implemented jointly by India and Japan as part of third-country initiatives.

ET has learnt that the UAE could partner India for projects in parts of Eastern Africa where the UAE has strong political connections. “France, Germany, UK and Italy have expressed interest in partnering India in third-country projects in Africa. These countries are expected to outline specific projects where they are interested to partner India,” said one of the persons, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Besides, Africa's second biggest economy and a big investor in Africa, Morocco has also expressed interest to partner India for joint projects in various African countries with special focus on Western Africa.

In contrast, Sierra Leone in West Africa recently scrapped plans to build a China-funded $318-million airport outside the capital, Freetown. A few other countries in western and southern Africa have also expressed concern that China’s funding pattern could push them into debt trap.

African countries jointly owe China about $130 billion, according to the China-Africa Research Initiative. This amount has funded transport, power and mining projects in the resource-rich continent. “Countries around the world are now rethinking the readily available loans offered by China for infrastructure projects in their countries, after fearing they could fall prey to Beijing’s debt-trap diplomacy... China-funded projects also require the hiring of Chinese-owned contractors rather than local companies and workers. Chinese loans, with interest rates of 2-3 per cent, are 1,100 per cent more expensive than those from Japan, at only 0.25-0.75 per cent,” the Daily Inquirer, a leading Philippine English newspaper, recently reported.

The Indian model is benign and completely driven by demands and requirements of the Line of Credit (LoC) recipient countries. India’s LoC offered at a concessional rate currently amounts to $25 billion for 263 projects in 62 countries including in Africa. This is besides the grants offered by India.

"Since 2014 the government has emphasised on timely completion of all LoC funded projects by removing dubious companies who were earlier executing the projects particularly in Africa. This has also ended pilferage of funds,” an official familiar with the projects under the external affairs ministry’s Development Partnership Administration told ET.

“Top Indian corporate firms are now involved in execution of projects. The PM as well as the foreign minister have been reviewing status of projects to ensure timely implementation,” he said.

After having expanded sectors for which it offers LoC, India has sought blueprints of specific projects in Africa from the partner countries in Europe. The new sectors include infrastructure projects such as convention centres, which were once China’s forte, renewable energy initiatives and defence.

India is on course to implementing a $10 billion LoC announced by the PM at the mega Indo-Africa Summit in 2015, the official cited earlier said, adding that the International Solar Alliance (ISA) has been another instrument to bring India and Africa closer to each other. France is partnering India in ISA. Besides, telemedicine and tele-education projects are being implemented on a pan-Africa basis.
Europe, Japan, US, UAE prefer India for joint infrastructure projects in Africa
 
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India lifts Denel ban that has been in place since 2005
Embattled South African arms manufacturer and contractor Denel was handed a lifeline when India lifted its blacklist, which had been in place since 2005.

This is one of the critical developments that happened during a high-level meeting attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa in New Delhi, India, this week.

Ramaphosa was accompanied by several Cabinet members and businesspeople to the meeting, which looked at how agreements between the two countries were going to be implemented.

Denel was blacklisted in India in 2005 after allegations emerged that it paid kickbacks to a company based in the Isle of Man to help secure deals to supply the Indian army with rifles and rounds of ammunition.

The decision to lift sanctions means that India, which remains the biggest buyer of weapons, will be importing arms from Denel.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who is part of the high-level South African delegation, said India had lifted sanctions on Denel.

“For us, one of the biggest industries in our country was Denel and when they were not able to deal with India it began to suffer losses,” Sisulu said on Friday.

“Now that we are putting all our energy into reviving Denel because of its capacity in Africa, we are looking to India for support.

“India has agreed to remove the barriers they had all along. They had refused to trade with us through Denel, but now they have put together a package for Denel. That will be necessary for the state-owned industry to get back on its feet,” Sisulu said.

She said the problems at Denel preceded the state capture period.

“When I was minister of defence in 2009, we already had problems with Denel. It does look like it preceded the state capture period. The Indian government had decided that they did not think Denel was trading with integrity and so they clamped down on us.”

Denel has been mired in scandal and mismanagement, which led to banks cutting off lending. Last year, City Press reported that Denel circumvented its own supply chain bosses to sign a highly irregular 10-year single-source supplier deal with Gupta-owned VR Laser. This is according to a forensic review report that has made its way into court papers.

Denel suffered massive financial losses, which led to delays in paying suppliers.

However, Sisulu said South Africa had turned a new leaf under the leadership of Ramaphosa.

“We have opened up. The president keeps emphasising the new dawn and it is visible. We have been reiterating our position against corruption and dealing honestly with people. I think the world is beginning to understand that we have turned a new leaf and that they can do business. We are a new dawn.”

Denel, Sisulu said, was one of the companies that could easily have outperformed most of the other government entities.

“We just had serious management impediments. I am not aware that there has been a proposal brought to Cabinet about selling anything that belongs Denel,” she said.

There were reports that Saudi Arabia was vying for a stake in Denel, apparently following government’s intention to sell off a piece of the arms manufacturer.

“The Saudi Arabia bid was a bid to have a share in Denel because we were going down. It was a suggestion from the Saudis and it did not go further than that,” Sisulu said.

Ambassador Anil Sookalal said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear that he wanted to deal with South Africa in defence procurement and joint ventures.

“India has a lucrative market and of course Denel is one of the leading arms manufacturers globally and is key. The environment is now clear to look at both countries entering the defence space,” he said.

Sookalal said the decision to lift sanctions on Denel came as a result of political intervention.
India lifts Denel ban that has been in place since 2005
 

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Zimbabwe vice president receiving treatment in India
HARARE - Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is being treated in India for a minor ailment, a government deputy minister has said, days after a local news website reported that the retired general had gone to that country due to failing health.

The health of Chiwenga (62) is closely followed in Zimbabwe because he is widely seen as the power behind President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the front-runner to succeed him. He led the coup that ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017.

A gaunt-looking Chiwenga was last seen in public last Tuesday, when he told state television he was not dying but gave no details about his condition. Since last year, Chiwenga's hands have been visibly swollen with discoloured skin patches.​

Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi said on Twitter Chiwenga "is recovering well from some minor abdominal ailment in Delhi, India." He declined to make further comment.

His tweet was ridiculed by citizens in a country where government officials routinely seek medical help abroad while the public health system has collapsed and hospitals struggle to provide medicines to patients.

ZimLive.com, an online news agency, reported last Thursday that Chiwenga had been flown to India for treatment but did not say what he was suffering from.

Days earlier, a private daily newspaper had reported that Chiwenga had travelled to Cape Town, South Africa, for treatment, his second visit in four months.

Mnangagwa has dismissed rumours of a rift with Chiwenga. These gathered momentum after Mnangagawa promised action in response to a brutal security crackdown carried out against protesters last month while the president was abroad. Chiwenga was acting president at that time.
Zimbabwe vice president receiving treatment in India
 

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India to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) support to Mozambique
In response to a request from the Republic of Mozambique that is hit by a tropical cyclone ‘IDAI’ of Category 4, causing loss of lives and severe damage to properties in Central and Northern part of Mozambique, Government of India has decided to divert three Indian Naval Ships (INS Sujatha, INS Shardul & INS Sarathi) to the port city of Beira to provide immediate Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to the affected people. Indian Naval Ships will provide relief material in the form of food, clothes and medicine to the affected people. In addition, the ships have 3 medical practitioners and 5 nurses to provide immediate medical help.

In this hour of tragedy, Government of India stands ready to extend support to the affected people. India has been extending humanitarian assistance to Mozambique and had provided 10 million dollars for food grains in 2017, after it suffered food shortage as a result of natural calamities.
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African nations offer India barter deal: Copper, gold for infra projects

Shine Jacob & Subhayan Chakraborty
New Delhi
10 Sep, 2019 | 01:21 AM

Bartering, or the exchange of goods and services for other goods and services, has been used as a trading tool since the earliest times. In 6000 BC Mesopotamian tribes bartered for trade and so did the Phoenicians. Today, that millennia-old practice is about to be revived by some African nations. Hit by the liquidity crisis and foreign exchange woes, they are reaching for the barter system to fund infrastructure projects such as roads, rails and other basic amenities.

At least three countries — Zambia, Ghana and Rwanda — have approached India with a proposal to export minerals in return for project import. Among the commodities that could be part of the barter deal are copper and gold. Two Indian companies, Ircon International and the State Trading Corporation of India (STC), are already in talks with these countries for a commodity-project swap deal.

A person in the know said STC was doing a detailed study to identify countries in Africa with which India could work out such arrangements. “It appears business in future will happen through barter. Every country is facing issues with foreign currency. India will build projects and we will be getting goods in return," said an official.

The plan is that Ircon, which is owned the Indian Railway, will build the projects while STC, under the ministry of commerce, will work out the mechanism for importing the minerals from the African nations.

When asked, S K Chaudhary, chairman and managing director, Ircon, confirmed the development. “We are in talks with these countries for such a deal. However, it is yet to be finalised," Chaudhary said.

Zambia is the world’s second-largest producer of cobalt and the seventh-largest producer of copper. It is reportedly rich in platinum and gold as well. Similarly, Ghana is Africa’s largest producer of gold and is also known for bauxite, manganese and diamonds. And Rwanda is rich in tin, tantalum and tungsten.

According to industry experts, a barter deal will make financial sense for India, too, as profits and returns may be more immediate than a long-term line of credit (LOC) to these countries.

Ircon and STC had joined hands earlier for similar trade arrangements for building projects. In early 2000s, India imported palm oil from Malaysia in exchange for building a railway line in that country. African nations have emerged as key focus areas of India's foreign policy, with the government increasing its development assistance to the continent through grant assistance, LOCs and concessional financing schemes.

In July, the ministry of external affairs informed Parliament that 279 LOCs, aggregating to nearly $27.91 billion, have been extended to 63 countries since 2005-06. Of these, 191 LOCs to the tune of nearly $11.58 billion have been extended to Africa.

An LoC constitutes loans to promote bilateral economic relations. Under it, a minimum 75 per cent of the contract value must be sourced from India in the form of goods and services, including consultancy services. A relaxation of 10 per cent is made on a case-to-case basis.

India has been providing LOCs on concessional terms to African nations to counter China's growing influence in the region. Indian policymakers have been cautious of Beijing's move to economically connect Africa with Asia and Europe through its ambitious Belt and Road initiative (BRI).

While China has committed to invest $126 billion across the region under the BRI, India has tried to counter this through increased LoC disbursals.

African nations offer India barter deal: Copper, gold for infra projects
 

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India’s outreach to Africa paying dividend
Surendra Kumar
Former Ambassador
Unlike PM Modi's other out-of-box and imaginative initiatives in the domain of foreign policy which have, at best, produced mixed results — inviting all SAARC leaders at his oath-taking ceremony in May 2014, stopping over in Lahore on December 25, 2016 to wish Nawaz Sharif a happy birthday — his well thought-out and focused outreach to Africa is transforming India's relations with this continent for the better. A decade ago, at most African capitals, the constant refrain from African leaders was that no Indian president/vice-president/PM has visited their country in decades and invitations for the African leaders to visit India were few and far between. But not anymore!

Modi has set his own example by visiting Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. President Pranab Mukherjee had visited Ghana, Namibia and Cote d 'Ivoire and Vice-President Hamid Ansari had visited Tunisia and Morocco. The current President, Ram Nath Kovind, has visited Swaziland, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti and Ethiopia, Mauritius and Madagascar and is all set to visit Benin, Guinea-Conakry and Gambia.
Speaking at the 52nd meeting of the African Development Bank in Gandhinagar on May 23, 2017, Modi asserted that since he became PM, he had "made Africa a top priority for India's foreign and economic policy."

Taking a cue from the Prime Minister, his Cabinet colleagues, contrary to the visible reluctance betrayed in the past, have also made a beeline to undertake trips to Africa. No wonder, there is hardly any African country today which has not been visited by an Indian minister in the past five years.

According to TS Tirumurti, MEA's secretary looking after economic relations, “There has been unprecedented intensification of our political engagement with Africa, with 29 visits to African countries at the level of President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, apart from several ministerial visits." India has hosted over 35 leaders from Africa for various events in the past five years or so, besides 41 Heads of State/ Government who attended the Africa-India Forum Summit in October 2015.

Above all, India has already opened six of the 18 additional missions in Africa. Five years back, none would have thought that India would have resident missions in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland and Togo. Currently, India has 29 resident missions, in Africa; this number is expected to rise to 47 by 2021.

The selection and spread of the countries for opening new missions reflect various factors which have led to their inclusion. Some offer markets for Indian products while others look attractive for investment; some have rich mineral (including uranium) and energy resources which we need while others have risen in strategic significance on account of the changing regional and international geo-political scene. Some new missions would serve India's maritime interests and address pirate attacks on merchant vessels which have been on the rise off the west coast of Africa.

The support of Africa is crucial for the realisation of India's aspirations to be a member of the UNSC. Our wider footprint will also enable us to keep a track of China's rising political, economic and military clout in Africa (China's military base in Djibouti has become operational).

In 2017-18, India's bilateral trade with Africa was estimated to be worth $62.18 billion, which was an increase of around 21.50 per cent over the previous year. India is Africa's third largest export destination and fourth largest trading partner. While 18 per cent of India's import of crude oil comes from Africa, roughly 20 per cent of Africa's pharmaceutical imports are from India. Several leading private sector Indian companies have a significant presence in Africa; Bharti Enterprises still offers telephone services in more than a dozen African countries. Agriculture, pharmaceuticals, energy, automobiles, IT services, computer science, hydrocarbons are among the areas which show considerable prospects for Indian investment.

Thirty eight African countries benefit from India's Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for the least developed countries. India has offered credit lines of over $12 billion in recent years. Her technical assistance and ITECH scholarships are aimed at capacity-building in Africa which is widely appreciated.

India's partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries. It is demand-driven and free of conditionalities.

India is also helping the African countries bridge the digital divide and has launched the second phase of the Pan Africa e-Network project — e-VidhyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati Network Project (E-VBAB) — which aims to provide five years of free tele-education to 4,000 students, free medical education to 1,000 doctors/nurses/paramedics and free medical consultancy.

In the International Solar Alliance, out of the 48 countries which have signed and ratified the ISA framework agreement, 25 are from Africa. India has announced 23 solar energy projects in 13 African countries in consultation with local governments for the effective implementation of a $1 billion line of credit which it had offered.
Narendra Modi's 10 Commandments for engagement with Africa enunciated while addressing the Ugandan Parliament in July 2018 still remain the guiding principles for productive and mutually beneficial partnerships with Africa.

While the mindset of the ministers has changed, regrettably, it hasn't impacted many IFS officers; the blue-eyed boys and girls (who have godfathers and godmothers) scrupulously avoid serving in Africa. The fact that in the last 70 years not even half a dozen foreign secretaries have served in Africa speaks volumes about this phenomenon. Hopefully, PM Modi's enthusiasm for Africa will rub on them too.
India’s outreach to Africa paying dividend
 
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