India thinks it can reinvigorate its ties with Africa through “affordable” medicines and use of sophisticated telemedicine technology. Representatives of 54 African countries — including 41 heads of state, or government attended the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) that was held in New Delhi, India from 26–30 October 2015. Through this summit, both countries aimed to reinvigorate their relationship that seemed to have drifted in recent decades. Time will only gauge the success and the impact of this summit but Indian officials have described it as one of the largest gathering of African leaders ever outside the continent.
The five-day summit started with consultations on official level followed by the head of states/governments level summit on 29 October with bilateral meetings on 30 October. This has been one of India’s biggest diplomatic outreach involving delegates from a large number of African nations. President Pranab Mukherjee described the India-Africa Forum Summit as a “historic occasion”.
As a growing economy, India can be development partner for Africa. Africa will be an important partner in terms of political, strategic, and economic concerns for India. India and Africa have strong socioeconomic similarities, such as diversity, a colonial history, and developmental challenges and issues.
The summit addressed the key challenges facing India and Africa, which included several economic, cultural and political issues such as green technology, blue economy, space technology, education, skill development, healthcare , food security, connectivity and peace and security.
PM Modi in his speech at the inaugural ceremony said “India’s expertise in healthcare, affordable medicines and telemedicine can offer new hope in the fight against many diseases; and give a newborn a better chance to survive. The government will collaborate to develop Indian and African treasures of traditional knowledge and medicines.”
Regarding the health sector, President Kenyatta from Kenya asked for “the cooperation of Indian pharmaceutical companies to set up more drug manufacturing plants in all areas of interest, especially in oncology and cardiology in order to strengthen the capacity of the health systems in Africa.”
PM Modi also called for unity for pushing reforms in international institutions like the UN Security Council. He said “This is a world of free nations and awakened aspirations. Our institutions cannot be representative of our world if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of UN members, or the world’s largest democracy with one-sixth of humanity. That is why India and Africa must speak in one voice for reforms of the United Nations, including its Security Council.” Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was seen taking a similar stand as Modi. Stating that African nations have been treated as “underdogs” and looked down upon as “dwarfs” by the permanent members of UNSC, Mugabe said reform of the global body should be carried out in such a way that it becomes “United Equal Nations”. “The South African President Jacob Zuma, who is part of G-4 grouping, also strongly backed India’s candidature for the UNSC seat.
“Africa has 60 percent of the world’s arable land reserves and just 10 percent of the global output. India will help to develop Africa’s agriculture sector that can drive the continent’s march to prosperity and also support global food security,” Modi said, while adding that India has noted Africa’s strong measures that are radically improving healthcare, education and agriculture. “Primary school enrolment in Africa now exceeds 90 percent,” he said.
This summit was said to be a spectacular diplomatic exercise hosted by India since the 1983 Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, and provided a huge opportunity for India to rejuvenate relations with the African continent.