PM announces $10-bn grant for Africa, makes pitch for UNSC reform

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced $10.6 billion in cheap credit and grants for Africa on Thursday while he wooed its leaders by highlighting historical and cultural ties between the two regions in a bid to boost India’s presence in the continent and draw level with China.

Modi played both a benevolent partner and a benign friend while addressing the plenary of the third India-Africa summit in the Capital, where two kings, 26 presidents, four prime ministers and nine vice-presidents spoke later.

He also brought into play India’s soft power to counter China’s chequebook diplomacy, made a fervent pitch for early reforms of the United Nations Security Council and sought greater cooperation with 54 African countries on issues ranging from terrorism to climate change.

“To add strength to our partnership, India will offer concessional credit of 10 billion US dollars over the next five years. This will be in addition to our ongoing credit programme,” Modi said in a wide-ranging speech effusive in praise of the continent which he called the land where “history began, humanity grew and new hope rises”.

India is hoping to capitalise on an economic slowdown in China, Africa’s biggest trading partner, which is often cited as following a partnership primarily focused on resources and not involving the local population in projects in ample numbers. While China does business with Africa worth $200 billion, India-Africa trade lags at $70 billion.

The host nation and African countries also decided to strengthen the fight against international terrorism and a comprehensive climate pact which will take into account the concerns of developing nations.

Apart from extending a credit line, Modi announced a grant assistance of $600 million, including an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million. The grant will also be used for 50,000 scholarships in India over the next five years.

The Prime Minister, like many African leaders who spoke at the summit, made a strong pitch for reforming the UN Security council and other global institutions, warning unless “they adjust to the changing world, they risk becoming irrelevant”.