April 13, 2018
India has forwarded a concessional credit of US$10 billion to the continent for the period 2015-20, while rolling out a plan to develop 18 new diplomatic missions over 2018-2021
Under bilateral cooperation, President Kovind assured President Mbasoso of India’s support in the fields of agriculture, mining, health, telecommunication and information technology
Swaziland’s head, King Mswati-III, conferred the highest national honour, the Order of the Lion, on President Kovind, the first visiting head of state to address the nation’s Parliament
India has promised to support Zambia’s health and education sectors through provision of medicines and equipment worth US$3 million and a US$100,000 grant to renovate a school
The African continent is among India’s oldest and most reliable partners in international trade and diplomacy. The relationship has only gotten stronger down the years with increased government to government interactions, trade and investment activities and people to people exchanges. Resultantly, Indian Government has forwarded a concessional credit line of US$10 billion to the continent for the period 2015-20, while also rolling out a plan to develop 18 new diplomatic missions over 2018-2021. The strengthening of ties comes as developing economies are gaining an increasingly important role in global economic decision making in the backdrop of crucial historical developments. Two major international events—the fall of the Berlin Wall, which preceded India’s economic reforms in 1991, and the 2008 financial crisis—had reshuffled the global order and governance mechanisms. Along with it, relationships were also recalibrated. Consequently, India and Africa have sought to renew and re-energise their civilisational, trade and cultural ties.
Frequent state visits from leaders on both sides have validated the fresh impetus in the relationship. In keeping with this, India’s President Ram Nath Kovind recently completed a three-nation tour of Africa, comprising of Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and Zambia. The visit helped reaffirm India’s relationship with these nations, as well as with the broader region. President Kovind’s first stop on his three-stage trip was Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea on Africa’s west coast. This was the first-ever visit by an Indian head of state to the country whose gross domestic product stands at around US$10 billion. In the spirit of the warm welcome accorded to President Kovind and the cordial bilateral talks held with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the President of Equatorial Guinea, India conveyed its decision to open an embassy in the country. President Kovind also offered India’s assistance in helping Equatorial Guinea diversify its economy by reducing its dependence on oil and gas exports.
While commenting on the complementary nature of the two economies—hydrocarbons and mineral resources being Equatorial Guinea’s strength along with India’s strength in human and financial capital—President Kovind offered to partner Equatorial Guinea in facilitating government-to-government development cooperation as well as business-to-business contracts in order to boost the economy. President Kovind also said India would assist Malabo in setting up an Entrepreneurial Development Centre and an English Language Laboratory. Under bilateral cooperation, President Kovind assured President Mbasoso of India’s support in the fields of agriculture, mining, health, telecommunication and information technology. On the occasion, agreements were signed related to cooperation in the fields of health and medicine, medicinal plants, traditional systems of medicine, in geology and mineral resources, and, on cooperation in information and communication technology.
President Kovind’s next stop was Swaziland, where he became the first visiting head of state ever to address the nation’s Parliament. In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, President Kovind offered concessional finance from India for construction of a new parliament building in Swaziland. The President also inaugurated the Royal Science and Technology Park which has been developed and built with India’s assistance. During the visit, the President observed that since agriculture was the mainstay for the majority of the population in both the nations, climate change has become a matter of critical concern. Swaziland has itself struggled with the El Nino phenomenon, leading to drought for two years. India has offered US$1 million to support the Swaziland National Disaster Management Agency, as well as foodgrains management. India has already shared some of its experiences with Swaziland farmers, which had helped them achieve multi-fold increase in maize productivity.
Consequently, India will now facilitate the establishment of a Centre of Agricultural Excellence in Swaziland. The President also said that India would help develop an irrigation system in the Lubuyane region. Incidentally, India has helped many other African nations—such as, Mozambique or Ethiopia – develop their irrigation and water resource management systems. Two bilateral agreements were formalised during the visit, including one related to cooperation in health sector and other related to visa exemption for holders of diplomatic and service passports. The nation’s head, King Mswati-III, also conferred the highest honour of Swaziland, the Order of the Lion, on President Kovind.
President Kovind’s last stop was Lusaka, capital of Zambia, where he received a warm reception from President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. President Kovind was accompanied by Mansukh L Mandaviya, Junior Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Chemical & Fertilizers, as well as two Members of Parliament—Ponnusamy Venugopal and Dr. Yashwant Singh—and other senior government officials. During bilateral talks, India and Zambia signed four agreements—related to double taxation; establishment of an Entrepreneurship Cooperative Development Centre in Zambia; visa exemption for holders of diplomatic passports; and judicial cooperation. India also promised to support Zambia’s health and education sectors through provision of medicines and medical equipment worth US$3 million and a US$100,000 grant to renovate the Mahatma Gandhi Primary School, respectively.
President Kovind also announced the Indian government’s intention to support Zambia’s hospitality industry and conference tourism by constructing the “Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre” in Lusaka. While welcoming Zambia’s signing of the International Solar Alliance framework agreement, which aims to instal more than 1,000 GW of solar generation capacity worldwide with an investment of US$1 trillion by 2030, President Kovind expressed India’s willingness to help Zambia in the area of biomass source of energy. Both the Presidents later inaugurated the commencement of work on a 93-km Lusaka traffic project which is being implemented by an Indian infrastructure company, Afcons Infrastructure Limited. The Lusaka Traffic Decongestion Project has also received substantial funding from India. Durign this stay, President Kovind’s trip reiterated India’s abiding involvement in the Africa continent and its constituent nations.