Addis Ababa, April 1 (IANS) Hailing the Indian model of inclusive development, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has made a vigorous pitch for greater Indian investment in infrastructure and education in Africa and ruled out competition between India and China in the resource-rich continent.
Alluding to robust diplomatic and political relations between India and Africa, Zenawi exhorted both sides to take this relationship to new heights.
“We need more private sector Indian investment in various fields, including in infrastructure and capacity building,” Zenawi told a group of visiting Indian journalists in the Ethiopian capital ahead of the second India-Africa Forum summit his country will host in May.
“India has unique capacity in this field. The Indian private sector is used to working in an environment similar to that of Africa. They have the technology and resources,” said Zenawi, who has been shepherding his country’s destiny for nearly two decades.
“The key area of interest is going to be the Indian investment in infrastructure. The government of India is giving a significant amount of resources for the development of infrastructure in the African continent. They have given us (Ethiopia) $700 million in concessional loans,” he said.
“India could have used this money for its own people. But this is indicative of the quality of special relations between India and Africa,” he said.
“We hope this type of solidarity continues to be expanded and developed in the days to come. We also hope the traditional role of India in the education sector will continue to be enhanced,” the Ethiopian leader underlined.
Ruling out competition between India and China in Africa, Zenawi said at best there will be “sibling rivalry, but it won’t be a zero sum game”.
“Inevitably, you are bound to have sibling rivalry.” But he stressed, it wouldn’t be a zero sum game like the rivalry between the two superpowers during the Cold War eras.
“When the elephants fight, the price is paid for by the grass. If the resources of Africa are going to be developed, they will need the markets of both India and Africa,” he said.
Underlining the unique features of India’s engagement with Africa, Zenawi said unlike others India does not lecture and impose its views on Africa. “It’s not about lecturing. It’s modest; it’s based on being available to Africa. India is not trying to impose itself; it has played a very constructive role in Africa.”
India’s bilateral trade with Africa is around $40 billion, which is much less than that of China’s bilateral trade of $108 billion with the continent.
However, unlike the mammoth infrastructure projects China has invested in Africa, India has focused on capacity building, value-addition and human resource development, generating huge reservoirs of goodwill for India across the African continent.
Underscoring time-tested relations between India and Africa, home to over two billion people, Zenawi said: “There are some intangibles that India bring to the table that makes the relationship special. India has been supportive of Africa’s decolonization and in addressing post-decolonisation challenges such as poverty eradication and development.”
“In some ways we are the same, but we understand each other better. Since days of early independence there has been broad cooperation at various levels.”
“Poverty in parts of India and Africa did not stop this relationship from expanding. This is a relationship which has been tested by time,” said Zenawi, who has an MBA from Open University of the United Kingdom and an MSc in economics from Erasmus University of the Netherlands.
Holding India as an example to Africa, the Ethiopian leader, who is seen by many as a voice of Africa on developmental issues, Zenawi said: “So now when India is beginning to move and poverty is becoming less of a problem, there are more resources for developing this relationship.”
“India has taught to the world that democracy and poverty are not mutually incompatible,” he stressed.