“We stand firm on the path of development with our African friends,” Singh said while inaugurating a cultural show held as part of the Africa Day celebrations organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) here.
“We have our doors open for what we can give them and what they desire they can take from us,” he said.
Africa Day commemorates the establishment of the African Union in 2001 which replaced the Organisation of African Unity established on May 25, 1963.
“It is to the credit of both the African countries and India that we share the same challenges and development models,” Singh said.
He recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement during the India-Africa Forum Summit here in October last year that the partnership of India and Africa was natural because the destinies of both were inter-linked.
“Both have suffered from colonialism and both have come out victorious over colonialism,” he said.
Stating that Africa has given leaders who have guided India, the minister said: “We sent Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young barrister, to Africa and Africa sent him back as Mahatma Gandhi who led us to independence.”
Earlier, during a panel discussion on “India-Africa Relations: Retrospect and Prospects” held as part of the event, ICCR Director General C. Rajasekhar said that the number of ICCR scholarships for African students would go up in the near future.
“We will bring more African cultural troupes from Africa to India and send more such Indian troupes to Africa,” he said.
Nigerian High Commissioner to India Sola Enikanolaiye said that India-Africa ties have grown by leaps and bounds with the holding of the India-Africa Forum Summits since 2008.
“But this partnership cannot be developed if it is rooted to only people-to-people ties,” he said.
“There should be investment and joint venture businesses. Track II diplomacy should be encouraged.”
Referring to murder of a Congolese man in the national capital last week, Enikanolaiye said that that role of the media, academia and think tanks was crucial for the removal of stereotypes.
“IT and social media can be the key to this,” he said.
Rwandan High Commissioner Ernest Rwamyuco said that though India is the fifth largest investor in Africa, but at 95 percent, Mauritius took the lion’s share of this.
“The investment climate needs to be improved. The role of India’s vibrant private sector is important,” he said.
According to Egyptian Ambassador Hatem Tageldin, trade, investment and connectivity form the key to the India-Africa partnership.
The height of the day’s celebrations was a performance by the Likakapa cultural troupe from Lesotho.
Capital City Minstrels, a Delhi-based choir group, also gave renderings of some African numbers, including the theme song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, “This time for Africa” by Shakira.
A week-long exhibition on Africa is also a part of the celebrations.