Indo-Africa summit to focus on maritime economic issues

Third India-Africa Forum summit will be held in New Delhi on October 26-30, and participation will be on three levels

When the heads of states of the African region meet Indian leaders in New Delhi next week, besides other sectors, ‘Blue Economy’ will be one of the major areas where India will be focussing.

“Africa has a long coastline, which is subject to global threat like piracy and the Indian Navy has played a very significant role on the east coast of Africa in guarding the trade routes, in securing the coastlines, even helping African nations organising international events by providing naval security,” said Navtej Singh Sarna, secretary (west), ministry of external affairs.

The concept of Blue Economy, seen as a logical extension of the Green Economy with emphasis on environmentally sustainable development, underlines that Oceans, including the High Seas, have an integral role in the struggle  for sustainable development.

Stating that Indian has done its bit in trying to build maritime capacity and is doing hydrographic surveys, he said, “We have done work in this area with Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya and other countries. This is the one area of immense security interest both to Africa and India.”

The third India-Africa Forum summit will be held in New Delhi later this month. “ The event will take place between October 26 and 30 and the participation will be at three levels. The first level would be that of the Heads of Government, followed by the Foreign Ministers and senior government officials.”

“This is also the first summit which is taking place after the United Nation’s adoption of the ‘Development Agenda 2030’ a month ago, which also has certain objectives and sustainable development goals, and the accompanying narrative is broadly in alignment with our own priorities,” he added.

Underlining the importance of the ‘Blue Economy’, the economy of the ocean, Sarna, said,  “It is extremely important to Africa, and we already had discussions on the blue economy with Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Mauritius. The economy will be developing the full potential of the ocean, whether in terms of trade, security, energy, fisheries, and so on.”

Studies have shown that oceans, seas and lakes require more in depth attention and coordinated action to better play their role in developing Africa. According to  Economic Commission for Africa in the Eastern Africa, oceans and waters provide a substantial portion of the global population with food and livelihood and are the means of transport for over 80% of global trade.

Though facing multiple daunting challenges, oceans’ ecosystems and associated resources are important and strategic economy drivers in many countries. According to the 2014 Africa Progress Report,illegal unreported and unregulated fishing costs Africa immensely.

The report cites that the amount of resources that are lost in west Africa is estimated at  $ 1.3 billion every
year with significant damages in ecological systems and food and nutrition security too.

Africa has a variety of coastal ecosystems — such as estuaries, coral reefs, mangrove forests, and wetlands — that provide critical services, including protecting the coast from severe weather and sea-level rise, regulating water quality and quantity, providing habitat for biodiversity, and spawning grounds for aquatic species.

Agriculture, healthcare, medical tourism, Indian investment in Africa, skill development programmes will also figure during the summit.

While preparing for the summit, India has made special efforts to align its priorities and activities as much as possible with Africa’s vision document  ‘Agenda 2063’.

India’s bilateral trade with the African continent is $70 billion. India has extended soft loans of about  $7 billion to the African countries which constitutes about two-third of all lines of credit operating with the continent. Presently, India has investments worth over $32 billion in Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, he added.

India’s trade with the continent has expanded 14 times in the last seven-eight years.

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First published on: 20-10-2015 at 00:02 IST