India&’s development cooperation with Africa is a partnership based on solidarity with technical cooperation and capacity building as the two main pillars that have led to strengthening of bilateral ties, said a top official here on Tuesday ahead of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit beginning next week.

Sujata Mehta, secretary (Multilateral and Economic Relations), in the ministry of external affairs, addressing a conference on ‘India-Africa Partnership: Future Directions’, said the IAFS structure format lays the ground for pluralistic and holistic engagement with Africa.

She said that India&’s engagement with Africa has been a multi-faceted partnership, through providing grants, in capacity building, technical cooperation and concessional credit.

Mehta said that India&’s technical cooperation and capacity building in Africa have been “most economical and has had the greatest impact in strengthening bilateral ties, and creating a huge web of relations”.

She also said that India offered $7.4 billion concessional credit during the past two summits, in 2008 in New Delhi and 2011 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). While the credit was being utilized for projects in 41 African countries, there were “numerous challenges” in utilizing the full amount, she said, and added that efforts would be made to address the challenges and improve upon delivery.

Mehta said that India&’s development partnership with Africa has had successful outcomes in building community infrastructure in the field of water and public health.

She noted that the development partnership has been like an ongoing dialogue over the years between India and the different African countries.

Mehta said that India&’s development cooperation with Africa was a partnership based on solidarity and “not a requirement imposed on us…what we do is only because we feel we have something to share with other developing countries like us”.

She noted that India&’s partnership with Africa was “non prescriptive… it is a response to a requirement expressed to us. We see it as genuinely participatory, a partnership based approach”.

To criticism that India&’s development partnership with Africa was lacking the profile of big players, Mehta said that India&’s partnership with the African continent is “unlike the state-centric model which would be based on resource extraction and the creation of a pertinent infrastructure”, in a tacit reference to China.

The conference was organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Brookings India, Gennet Zewide, the ambassador of Ethiopia, addressing the conference, said that Africa with its abundant natural resources, vast agricultural land and 5.5 GDP growth rate has attracted many players seeking closer economic cooperation.

Zewide, who is the Dean of African Diplomatic Corps, said that Africa-India ties are based on mutual respect and genuine partnership and a sense of solidarity.

She said “India surpasses all other countries in providing human resource development in various sectors” to Africa and added that India can partner Africa in striving to meet the UN sustainable development goals 2030 and the Agenda 2063 goals of Africa. She hoped the upcoming summit would look into the issue.

Zewide also expressed hope that trade and economic ties between India and Africa would get a boost as well as people-to-people ties.

She urged for greater people-to-people contact between both sides, saying that while people in Africa knew about India because of Bollywood and of India&’s outreach in Africa, the reverse was not true.

Recounting an incident, the envoy said that once when she mentioned she belongs to Ethiopia she was asked where it was, which she pointed out was because of lack of knowledge about the African continent in India.

“Africa is not only South Africa or Nigeria. There should be proactive engagement between Africa and India so that a positive perception is given,” she said.

Earlier, chairing the session Director General, IDSA, Jayant Prasad identified food security, energy, information and communications technology and institution building as some of the focal areas of future interactions between India and Africa.

The Third India-Africa Forum Summit is from October 26-29.