Africa on Top Priority: Prime Minister Modi Visits Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa
Dr Neha Sinha, Associate Fellow, VIF

Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a five day, three-nation tour to Africa. The first leg of his visit was Rwanda, followed by Uganda where he addressed the Parliament of Uganda; and finally to South Africa to attend the 10th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in Johannesburg. This visit is significant, as it provideed an opportunity to the Indian Prime Minister to pay attention to issues of common interest and concerns at regional, bilateral and international level. It further focuses on India’s adherence to a healthy partnership for shared growth and progress.

Rwanda

It was a historic visit by PM Modi to Rwanda, since it was the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the land-locked nation. Rwanda is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, and its President Paul Kagame is the present chairman of the African Union. Eight MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) were signed between the two countries. Two lines of credit worth $100 million each were extended to Rwanda; the first was to develop an industrial park and Kigali Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the country, and the second, was for development of agricultural infrastructure (MEA 2018).

Other MoUs signed were in the fields of cultural exchange, trade, dairy partnership between Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) India and Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board, Kigali. Mutual support in Agriculture and Animal Resources were shown and cooperation between Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), India and National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) Rwanda were also brought to the forefront.

In addition, to empower the poor families of Rwanda, Modi gifted 200 cows under the ‘Girinka’ scheme. The Government of Rwanda claimed that this scheme has helped more than 3.5 lakh people of the country so far (MEA, 2018). The Prime Minister also met with the Indian community and held delegation level talks with the Rwandan businessmen.

Uganda

During the next leg of his visit to Uganda, the Indian PM addressed the Parliament of Uganda. During his address, Modi termed Uganda as the "pearl of Africa," and discussed ten guiding principle to help India in deepening the relation with the continent. He mentioned that both the nations will work together for maritime growth security, in combatting terrorism, keeping the cyber space safe and supporting the United Nations to maintain peace and order in the international realm. Africa is endowed with world’s 60 percent of arable land, still the output in agricultural sector is just ten percent (Indian Express, 2018). Thus, Modi stated that India will support Uganda in achieving agricultural growth through industrial investment (MEA, 2018).

Some of the important announcements made were the two lines of credit were extended – for the construction of electricity lines and substations (worth $141 million) and for agriculture and dairy production (worth $64 million). Opening up of Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre at Jinja, cooperation in the fields of defence, cultural exchange, material testing laboratory and visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders were also announced during his visit.

South Africa

In the final leg of his tour, PM Modi headed to South Africa for the 10th BRICS Summit, where he reaffirmed India’s commitment for promoting peace and development in the African continent. The BRICS summit was based on the theme ‘BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution’. PM Modi restated India’s support for multilateralism and concentrated on how to tackle the problem of growing terrorism and extremism in international arena. Moreover, he focused on the South-South cooperation. He also mentioned that India, in the last four years, has extended lines of credits worth $11 billion to more than 40 African countries, with the Indian private sector investment worth $54 billion in the African nations (First post 2018).

India and South Africa’s diplomatic relation goes back to 1993, and also, 2018 marks 125th year of the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station incident in which Mahatma Gandhi was removed from a train. During the BRICS Summit, PM Modi also mentioned that there is a need for high level visits by other countries to help scale the engagement with India. Lastly, three MoU’s were signed between the two nations which include: i) cooperation in agricultural research and education; ii) in exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes; and, iii) setting up of the "Gandhi Mandela Centre of Specialisation for Artisan Skills” in South Africa (MEA, 2018).

Conclusion

The three-nation visit is seen as a gateway to deepen our engagement with the African continent. Also, there has been remarkable commitment shown by India and Africa in several fields. In the last four years, 23 visits by the Indian Presidents, Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers have been made to the resource-rich continent. Lastly, Indian government plans to open 18 new embassies across the continent, which is an indication that Africa is a priority for India.

Endnotes
  1. Firstpost 2018, ‘Narendra Modi at BRICS Summit: PM highlights need for South-South cooperation, says India wants peace and development in Africa’, 27th July, 2018.
  2. https://www.firstpost.com/india/narendra-modi-at-brics-summit-pm-highlights-need-for-south-south-cooperation-says-india-wants-peace-and-development-in-africa-4835101.html
  3. MEA, 2018,’ List of MoUs signed between India and South Africa during 10th BRICS Summit’, July 26, 2018.
  4. https://www.mea.gov.in/bilateraldocuments.htm?dtl/30193/List_of_MoUs_signed_between_India_and_South_Africa_during_10th_BRICS_Summit
  5. Indian express, ‘PM Modi’s Africa visit: All that happened before BRICS summit’, 2nd August, 2018.
  6. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-modis-rwanda-visit-all-that-happened-in-the-african-country-5276934/
  7. MEA 2018, ‘India-Rwanda Joint Statement during State Visit of Prime Minister to Rwanda’; 24th July, 2018. https://www.mea.gov.in/bilateraldocuments.htm?dtl/30148/IndiaRwanda+Joint+Statement+during+State+Visit+of+Prime+Minister+to+Rwanda
  8. MEA 2018, ‘India-Uganda Joint Statement during State Visit of Prime Minister to Uganda’, 25th July, 2018.
  9. https://mea.gov.in/bilateraldocuments.htm?dtl/30153/IndiaUganda+Joint+Statement+during+State+Visit+of+Prime+Minister+to+Uganda

Image Source: https://www.cmproductions.co.za/portfolio-item/prime-minister-modis-visit-to-south-africa/

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