People-to-people connect between India and Africa is lacking, and the upcoming Third India-Africa Forum Summit should focus on building this crucial linkage between the two sides, feels the Ethiopian envoy to India.

Gennet Zewide, the ambassador of Ethiopia and the Dean of African Diplomatic Corps in New Delhi, also hopes that the October 26-29 summit will deal with removing the “negativity and misconception” in India regarding the African students.

“We hope to see more people-to-people relations between both sides. This is a field that was missing in the first two IAFS. India and Africa have both suffered during the colonial period, from injustice, from apartheid. Both have fought together against colonialism. Both are working to develop socio-economically. But there is lack of awareness of each other, more so about Africa in India,” said Zewide.

She said while there is awareness about India even in rural areas of Africa because of Bollywood and because of India&’s business ventures and infrastructure development, the recognition about Africa and awareness about the continent in India “is lacking”.

“Wherever I go and say I am from Ethiopia, they ask me ‘Is it in South Africa, or is it in Nigeria?”.. Africa is not only South Africa and Nigeria. Africa is diverse," said the senior diplomat.

“I believe there should be proactive engagement between Africa and India.. Positive perception is needed of Africa in India,” she said. 

“Africa is 54 countries, Africa is diverse; we are economically diverse, language-wise diverse, culturally diverse. So it is time that we should have a people-to-people kind of relationship, which has to be strengthened. It is only when economic and government-to-government relations are rooted in people-to-people ties that it will flourish more,” said Zewide. 

She said when African students come to India for training “there is misconception and negativity”. “We have to overcome this; and only when people-to-people relations are strengthened, then the other factors, like economic ties, will be cemented, I believe,” she said.

Zewide said that in her country many people know about India because of Indian teachers in the universities, and earlier many Indians taught in the primary and secondary schools there.

 “But most Indians don’t know about Africa.”

She feels the Indian media “does not talk about Africa, unless there is a disaster” or some negative incident concerning some African student.

“Let the media be vibrant; they don’t talk about Africa, they don’t know what&’s going on, and even when our leaders come there is no coverage,” she said.

Zewide hoped the upcoming summit would focus on people-to-people relations between the two sides.

The Third IAFS, being held in New Delhi from October 26-29, is expected to see all the 54 countries being represented, with heads of state and government from over 40 countries expected to attend. The event is set to be the biggest diplomatic engagement being hosted by India since the 1983 NAM and CHOGM summits.