India taps IT power to woo African youth

India taps IT power to woo African youth

India taps IT power to woo African youth

Drummers and dancers swayed jauntily, waving flags of India and Tanzania at the entrance to the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology where hundreds of budding engineers and young IT trainees eagerly waited for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to speak to them Friday evening.

It was a hot and humid evening in this coastal metropolis, but the torrid weather could not deter students who sat patiently and clapped spontaneously as Manmohan Singh described them as "the future of Tanzania" and offered to "create a pool of world class professionals" in East Africa's largest country.

"You represent the future of Tanzania, and from what I have seen I can say with confidence that the future of Tanzania is bright," he said to loud applause before formally launching the Indo-Tanzanian Centre for Excellence in IT which has been set up by Indian software engineers at a cost of a little over $2 million in August last year.

"India is ready to provide all the help we can within our resources to enable Tanzania to create a pool of world class IT professionals," he said.

"If we can produce a steady stream of highly trained scientists, technologists and engineers, our cooperation would be worthwhile and we would be putting our money to good use," he said.

This is the first time an Indian Prime Minister was addressing the youth in an African university, signalling New Delhi's new vision to forge a contemporary and modern partnership with the African continent where over 50 percent of nearly 1 billion people are in the age group of 18-35.

"The scientific and technological empowerment of the youth has a direct correlation to a nation's social and economic progress," he said.

The institute also houses the Param High Speed Super Computer gifted by India to Tanzania in 2009 that is being used for weather-forecasting and high-speed computation.

This has made Tanzania only one of four African countries that also include Ghana, Egypt and South Africa which has facilities for high-tech computing facilities. India has also set up a similar IT centre for excellence in Ghana.

Raising the bar for India's diplomatic thrust in Africa, Manmohan Singh announced India's readiness to cooperate with Tanzania in the area of space technology and applications and placed it in the larger context of South-South bonding.

"The countries of the South have today shown that technology is no longer the preserve of only the rich countries. We have the capability to build a large industrial and technological base," he said.

Putting education, training and knowledge-based capacity building at the forefront of India's engagement with Africa, Manmohan Singh said: "We also have to constantly innovate and remain open to new ideas. We should develop the capacity to remain in the forefront of knowledge based industries."

Capacity building and education were the twin themes throughout his six-day visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania that concluded Saturday. In Addis Ababa, Manmohan Singh had announced $5.7 billion for creating 80 training institutes and a host of development projects across the African continent, key initiatives that set India's Africa diplomacy from China's resource-focused foray.

IT has emerged as a key component of India's development-centric partnership, with African countries seeing India as a fellow developing country that has emerged as a formidable knowledge power.

"It's a momentous occasion," said John W. Kondoro, principal of Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology.

"Tanzania and Africa looks to harness India's success in the IT sector. India is an IT power," Kondoro told IANS.

Tanzania is also among a few African countries where India's flagship Pan-African e-network, that seeks to bridge the digital divide among the African continent, is thriving.
India has completed the setting up of three components of the e-Network.: the tele-conference facility at the State House, the tele-medicine facility at the Dar es Salaam Cancer Institute, and the tele-education facility in the University of Dar es Salaam.
In addition, 10 tele-centres in various regions of Tanzania have been set up that provide services in tele-education and tele-medicine to Tanzanians.