India used the occasion of its second summit with Africa to announce a major scaling up of its financial commitment to the continent and also pledged to expand educational and training opportunities for African students at home and in Indian universities.
Speaking at the plenary of the Africa-India Forum Summit here on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India would offer $5 billion for the next three years under lines of credit to help Africa achieve its development goals. He also offered an additional $700 million for new institutions and training programmes to be established in consultation with the African Union.
Indian officials later clarified that the $5 billion credit line represented an increase of $1.6 billion over the $3.4 billion that remains unspent from previous commitments but that an effort would be made to ensure the full amount is utilised by 2014.
But more than money, it is India's contribution to African capacities which appears to have given its engagement with the continent a distinctive edge. In his speech to the plenary, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal thanked India for assisting his country in increasing rice production so dramatically that it has gone from being an importer to an exporter in a matter of four years. “This because India helped us with its ideas and technology,” he said.
Dr. Singh said India was proposing to establish, at the pan-African level, clusters for food processing and textiles as well as a centre for weather forecasting and universities for life and earth sciences as well as agriculture and rural development. He also announced a decision to establish an India-Africa Virtual University which would help meet some of the demand in Africa for higher studies in Indian institutions. Offering to increase the number of training positions for Africa, the Prime Minister said 22,000 African students would benefit from Indian scholarships over the next three years.
As for infrastructure, Dr. Singh announced $300 million in Indian support for the development of a new railway line from landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti. The last time a train ran from Addis Ababa to the Red Sea port-nation was in 2007.
On the political side, the Prime Minister told his African counterparts that “global institutions of governance are outmoded and under duress” and that there was need for a “new spirit of solidarity among developing countries.” Africa has all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world in the 21st Century, he said. India was happy to place at Africa's disposal its own experience in nation building.
In his speech, Jean Ping, chair of the African Union Commission, said Africa had benefited enormously from the fact that India, Brazil, China and other rising economies had managed to keep the global economy growing at a time when the West was mired in crisis.