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Speech by His Excellency Mr. Dinesh Bhatia, Ambassador of India at RIS organised Special Address by President of Liberia on 'India-Africa Partnership and Sustainable Development Goals' 30 October 2015; New Delhi

Posted on: October 30, 2015 | Back | Print

President of Liberia H.E. Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,

Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, RIS,

Prof. Ram Upendra Das, RIS

Mr. Yuri Afanasiev, UNDP Resident Representative in India,

Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon. Namaskar.

It is my unique honour and privilege to once again welcome Nobel Laureate and President of Liberia H.E. Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf this afternoon. I am personally indebted to her for having so graciously accepted to be amongst us today.

I have been in Côte d'Ivoire in West Africa since April 2014 and I have been travelling to Guinea and Liberia - the two countries under my concurrent accreditation- fairly regularly barring the peak Ebola period. When I reached this beautiful continent, I had no idea what it is and how it is. To some extent, I had somewhat similar misconceptions as almost all Indians who haven't had any exposure to Africa. They think Africa is infested with all kinds of ills. To my pleasant surprise, I met with a different world and people who are extremely kind and honest.

It is incorrect to paint the continent of Africa with the same brush, with humongous diversities among various regions, among countries and even within the countries. Therefore, if I take my own experience into account, I can confidently say that the land is blessed. 

I compare the present of Africa to the Gulf region of the middle of 20th century when oil was discovered in the region and the history of the region took a new turn to make it among the most prosperous in the world. Most of the Africa today offers incomparable opportunities in the form of mining & minerals, agriculture, infrastructure development, energy, tourism - to name a few- and perhaps any sphere of economic activity that one can envisage.

Most of the countries in Africa are focussing on human resource development as that is the key to rapid growth and poverty reduction. It offers another area of education and skill development for us to work in. Of course, India is a key partner in this field with PM Modi further emphasising it during the India Africa Forum Summit by announcing addition of 10000 ITEC scholarships for Africa every year.

With all this in the background, where is Africa heading? To achieve economic growth, one needs not only material and human resources but also governance and not necessarily good governance. The governance has to be continuous which means the continuation of government policies irrespective of change in government. Along with, what one needs is a decisive leadership. And let me take this opportunity to state that I have personally witnessed decisiveness coupled with alacrity in President Sirleaf.

India has witnessed this form of governance along with economic reform process going back about 25 years, embedded in a strong and deep rooted democracy. Time has come for Africa where these basic conditions are now being met in several countries and thus, are poised to take off. Time has come for us Indians to give the special attention on this land of opportunity and mutual prosperity. Time has come to reorient our social, cultural, economic and political approach towards Africa. 

I would like to particularly make a mention of West Africa, where Liberia is situated, in this context. The region unfortunately has not received our due attention. I am told by Africa watchers and experts in India that it is due to distance and language as most of these countries are Francophone. I don't think these are not barriers any more. I have seen Indians, even those who are not so well educated, learn the language in 3 to 6 months on the job.

While the inflow of Indians and Indian enterprises has accelerated in recent years, the question arises, in spite of huge potential, more than ample opportunities and no significant barriers, what is deterring us to enhance our footprints in Africa, particularly West Africa, in a big way. Is it simply inertia or misplaced infatuation with the developed world? I leave this thought with you all.

Thank you. Dhanyavad.