India, Africa unveil action plan to boost ties

The action plan was launched at a formal ceremony attended by the 15-member delegation of the African Union Commission and the 42-member Indian team, comprising officials of the external affairs ministry and industry bodies.

The action plan, which will implement key decisions of the first India-Africa Forum Summit held in New in New Delhi in April 2008, outlines a detailed strategy for accelerating bilateral engagement for the next four years. It also lays out a roadmap for the bilateral summit next year.

The plan focuses on development-centric partnership between India and Africa and includes setting up of a slew of training institutes by India in areas of diamond polishing, IT, vocational education and Pan-African Stock Exchange.

It covers the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation in diverse areas, including agriculture, business, energy, poverty eradication, peace and security, IT, education, health, transport and tourism.

The action plan will impart greater vigour and momentum to India's engagement with Africa, said Vivek Katju, secretary in the external affairs ministry.

"It's a partnership based on concrete development projects. Africa welcomes this partnership and is ready to play its own role in its implementation," said Jacques-Alfred Ndoumbe-Eboule, Cameroon's permanent representative to the 53-nation AU and chairman of the multilateral affairs sub-committee of the AU.

"It's a blueprint for partnership to promote sustainable development. We hope the action plan will create better market access for African products," said John Kayode Shinkaiye, chief of staff at the AU commission, headquartered in Addis Ababa.

Closer cooperation in agriculture and food security top the action plan. India will provide 25 PhD and 50 Masters scholarships per annum for four years to African students in Indian universities and institutions to enhance agricultural education, science and research.

At the first India-Africa summit, attended by leaders and representatives of 14 Africa countries, India had promised to assist Africa in ushering a second green revolution.
Food security has become a pressing issue across Africa, especially in view of recent famines and devastating effects of climate change on some African countries.

With both sides determined to scale up their bilateral trade to $70 billion by 2015, India will establish an India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade and set up an India-Africa Diamond Institute in an African country.

The plan also gives a push to greater interaction between private sectors of the two sides that is at the heart of India's greater business foray into the resource-rich African continent.

To bridge the information gap, an India-Africa Business Guide will be prepared to highlight opportunities on both sides for trade and investment. India will also establish 10 vocational training centres in Africa and will offer generous lines of credit to African countries for developing business-related infrastructure.

At the 2008 summit, India had announced duty-free and quota-free market access to exports from 34 least developed African countries and doubled financial package for development of the continent to $5.4 billion over the next five years.

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