'Africa welcomes Indian enterprise'

Ties between Africa and India date back over 2,000 years and the  civilisations of India and Africa have been united by the India Ocean  over many centuries, said Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign  Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos.

Today, the rapid emergence of India as a major power in the  globalised world has prompted growing interest in the relationship  between India and Africa, Christos said during a two-day seminar here  that started Wednesday evening.

The seminar was organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs  (ICWA) ahead of the two-day Africa-India Summit to be inaugurated by  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on May 24.

Titled "Africa and India: A Partnership for Development and Growth",  the seminar was intended to give some meaningful suggestions to the leaderships of the  two sides.
Indian business investments have created a large number of job  opportunities for Africans. Indian entrepreneurs have invested more  than $25 billion in Africa  in agriculture, manufacturing, telecom,  infrasturucture, Christos said.

In Ethiopia alone, the minister said, the quantum of investment by  Indian firms had increased from $500 million five years ago to $4.5  million today, and said his country looked forward to more for the  mutual benefit of the two nations.

The increased flow of technical and financial resources to Africa  will build infrastructure increase industrialization, expand  employment opportunities and promote free and fair trade among our  countries, he stated.

The seminar  is of particular significance as Africa and India stand on the threshold of a new awakening and  consciousness about each other, said Sudhir Devare, director general of ICWA, a think tank of the external affairs ministry.

Agreeing with the remarks, Sebhat Negga, executive director of the  co-host of the event, the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace  and Development, said ties between India and Africa took on a new  dimension after 2008.

His reference was to the first India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi  in April 2008, which set a new agenda for engagement between the two  sides, in areas that stretched from technology and infrastructure to  social development and culture.

India today is an economic power, growing rapidly. At the same time,  it has historical ties with Africa  it has been very very supportive  of our struggle against cololian rule and apartheid, Negga, also a  lawmaker, said.

He said India may have been a late-comer vis-a-vis some other  countries such as China in engaging with Africa, but also firmly  believed this should not be a problem.

We should ask ourselves, if we are good partners, he said, asking  the African nations "to put our houses in order" to engage better with  India.

The organisers said the event was in the nature of an academic  conference with expert speakers drawn from areas such as strategic  affairs, banking, gender issues, finance, policy, education, foreign  relations and history.

Key speakers include the Ethiopian Education Minister Demeke Mekonnen  and his colleague, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gerbe,  and India's National Maritime Foundation Director C. Uday Bhaskar.

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