Sharing the African Dream

Professor Bingu Wa Mutharika
President of Malawi

Africa and India are bound by a common destiny. The two continents share a relationship that goes back to ancient times. India has been at the forefront of the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle in Africa. As an emerging economy, it has striven to contribute to the development of Africa, particularly in the areas of human resources, information and communications technology, agriculture and infrastructure development.

India fully understands the challenges Africa faces, and therefore, seeks to forge a long developmental partnership with African countries to share experience, capacity and technology in the energy sector for mutual benefit. The two sides share the view that international economic relations continue to be characterised by inequities and inequalities with large sections of the world yet to reap the benefits of globalisation. This has led to economic crises and instability in several developing countries.

Science and Technology

Capacity building through education is critical to Africa’s development. We need scientists, engineers, agronomists, medical researchers and economists. India has the capacity to train Africa in these areas.
For decades, India has, through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, offered scholarships to thousands of African students to study in India. I am one of the students who benefited from such a scholarship.

I am happy that Africa and India agreed on a new Joint Action Plan of Cooperation which was launched in New Delhi on March 10, 2010. A key component of the Action Plan is capacity building under which India offers scholarships to African men and women to study in Indian universities.
The Action Plan aims at implementing key decisions of the first India-Africa Summit held in April 2008 in New Delhi. I must state that India is one of the best countries to attain quality education. As a product of the Indian education system, I unequivocally attest to the high quality of education available in India.

Drawing from my experience, a number of areas can be singled out for discussion but I will review only a few. First, the tremendous economic turnaround that India has achieved in the last decade or so has been facilitated by a breakthrough in technology. The Indian economy has grown tremendously to become one of the largest in the world. This economic prosperity has been driven by the Indian people themselves using locally developed technologies and equipment. The medium and small-scale industries in India are a strong driving force of this economic prosperity.

Africa’s key challenges are the lack of ownership and control over science and technology and applied engineering on the one hand and the lack of capacity on the other. There is now a consensus that in order to sustain growth and spur social and economic transformation, Africa should fast-track the acquisition of appropriate science and technology as well as new capacities. This would enable its countries to convert their abundant natural resources and minerals into new wealth.

On the basis of India’s experience during the past eight decades or so, I believe that Africa stands to gain by learning from this experience. In particular, Africa can utilise and adapt appropriate technologies that have been developed by India in order to add value to our products. Development partners such as India, therefore, should support meaningful and sustainable development in Africa through capacity building in science and technology. We can build from existing cooperation arrangements to move Africa to a higher level in the application of science and technology.

Agriculture And Food Security Agricultural development and food security are the new frontiers in capacity building cooperation between Africa and India. I believe that if Africa is to achieve sustainable growth and development there is need for guaranteed food security. In fact, even in the case of India, sustained growth of its economy occurred only when the country made a breakthrough in agriculture in the form of “Green Revolution”.

For Africa, the African Food Basket Concept which was endorsed by the Kampala Summit in July 2010, offers new hope for food security. We must develop appropriate research to increase the productivity of our food crops. There is no better partner to assist us in this research than India that achieved a “Green Revolution” by developing appropriate seeds and chemicals that revolutionised their agricultural production systems.

Statistics show that Africa now uses only about 10 percent of its arable land for agriculture and food production. The continent has, therefore, abundant land and water resources that are not being fully utilised for agricultural production. Africa can learn from our Indian partners how to develop simple technologies for use by small farmers in irrigation, thereby reducing heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

In Malawi, we are developing the “Greenbelt Project” that would bring up to a million hectares under irrigation. We will utilise abundant water resources which the Almighty has blessed us with to increase productivity.

I am glad to say that the Malawi Government has reached an agreement with the Government of India under which the latter will finance the acquisition of various equipment and technologies needed to achieve food security in our country. Experts will be sent to learn from Indian partners about extensive low-cost irrigation schemes, especially for the poor and low-income groups.

New Opportunities

Cooperation between Africa and India is historical and focuses on empowerment of people and institution building through human resource development.

The African continent is now searching for new opportunities to partner with India to build the right capacity for a new prosperous, hunger-free, disease-free and poverty-free Africa. This is achievable through the transfer of human skills and technology from India to Africa.

I always quote the old adage that “to know what to do and how to do it is a good thing”. Therefore, for any development to take place, policy makers and those who carry out such policies must know what they are doing. This is because economic and industrial developments do not come about by chance but through deliberate policies and programmes towards specific objectives and priorities.

In my book The African Dream: From Poverty to Prosperity, I have asserted that African leaders have now fully recognised their role as drivers of change. The African people are moving from Afro-pessimism to Afro-optimism. They are ushering in an Africa of new beginnings. This is the African Dream. Africa should be in the hands of Africans just as India is in the hands of Indians.

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