Energy, food security, diaspora on Modi's African agenda

Updated on : Jul 04,2016   8:20 pm

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) Energy, food security, diaspora interactions, maritime cooperation, trade and the India-initiated International Solar Alliance will be high on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agenda when he goes on a four-nation tour of Africa, his first to that continent's mainland, this week, a senior official said on Monday.

Modi's visit to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya from July 7 to 11 is expected to consolidate the gains made during the third edition of the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) held here in October last year, Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said at a pre-departure media briefing here.

He said Modi's visit will also be the third segment of India's high-level engagement with Africa this year after Vice President Hamid Ansari's visits to Morocco and Tunisia and President Pranab Mukherjee's visits to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia.

Sinha said that energy and food security would be a key area of focus during his day-long visit to Mozambique on July 7.

"I say energy because Mozambique is the third largest exporter of natural gas after Qatar and Australia," he said.

Mozambique is also the destination of nearly a quarter of Indian investments of nearly $8 billion in Africa, he informed.

Trade with Mozambique jumped five-fold in the last five years and is now hovering around $2 billion.

A memorandum of understanding on food security is also expected to be signed with Mozambique.

"We also hope to sign an MoU on government-to-government purchase of pulses from Mozambique for India," Sinha said.

Another MoU is also likely to be signed in the civil aviation sector as no Indian airline flies to Africa.

Interactions with the diaspora will be a key feature during the five-day tour of the Prime Minister.

While South Africa has over 1.2 million people of Indian origin, Kenya has 80,000, Tanzania 50,000 and Mozambique 20,000.

Apart from the regular community interactions, Sinha said Modi would address two large diaspora rallies - one in Johannesburg on July 8 and the other in Nairobi on July 10.

With all the four countries being maritime neighbours of India, maritime cooperation will be another key area of focus.

"They are all members of the IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association)," Sinha said.

"So, we are interested in blue economy in all its connotations and maritime security."

During his visit to South Africa on July 8 and 9, Modi will spend the first day in the twin cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and the second day in Durban, home to around 800,000 people of Indian origin, making it the city with the largest Indian population outside India.

While in Johannesburg and Pretoria, apart from the regular bilateral engagements, Modi, along with South African President Jacob Zuma, will address a large business meeting.

"South Africa, of course, traditionally has seen a huge presence of Indian companies," Sinha said.

"Over 150 Indian companies have invested there," he said, adding that investments are to the tune of around $3 billion.

"Similarly a large number of South African companies have invested in India."

India is also interested in South African technology for coal gasification and deep mining, according to Sinha.

On July 9, Modi will leave for Durban where he will visit Mahatma Gandhi's Phoenix Ashram and take a train ride to Pietermaritzburg in memory of the incident in 1893 when Gandhi was thrown out of a train compartment on account of his skin colour.

A major highlight of Modi's visit to Tanzania on July 10, apart from his regular official engagements and interaction with the Indian community, will be a meeting with a group of "solar mamas".

"Solar mamas" are women who have been trained in harnessing solar energy at the Barefoot College at Tilonia village in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

"He (Modi) will also be meeting a group of 40 or so solar mamas from different parts of Africa," Sinha said.

"This connects with our new (International) Solar Alliance as we already have a cadre of well trained people even at the village level who are solar technicians."

On July 11, during his visit to Nairobi, Kenya, Modi, apart from his regular official engagements, will visit the United Nations Office, one of the four major UN office sites where several different UN agencies have a joint presence.

"Plus he will be addressing students in the University of Nairobi, which, interestingly, was set up by a group of Indians," Sinha said.