President Pranab Mukherjee today embarked on a six-day visit to three African nations—Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia—to boost trade ties with these countries known for having “solid political system, where democracy has taken roots”. This is the maiden visit of any Indian President to Ghana and Ivory Coast whereas to Namibia, such a visit comes after two decades.
Even though Mukherjee has toured a number of countries in the continent, he will be visiting these countries for the first time in his long political career.
He was a given a traditional send off at Rashtrapati Bhavan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag among others.
“All these countries we look at as good countries in terms of a solid political system, where democracy has taken roots and these are all doing reasonably well in their regions,” Secretary (ER) Amar Sinha has said.
The President is accompanied by Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh and MPs S S Ahluwalia and Mansukh L Mandaviya.
“It’s a very important visit of the President. He is visiting two countries for the first time—Ivory Coast and Ghana, besides Namibia where an (Indian) President will visit after 21 years. He is having a number of engagements.
“This is not a ceremonial visit. It has an educational component, economic component and a community component,” MoS Singh said.
The first stop of Mukherjee will be in Accra, capital of Ghana, where there will be delegation level talks at the President’s House, which is called Flag Staff House, tomorrow.
The imposing building has been built by a renowned Indian builder, Shapoorji Pallonji.
There are likely to be discussions on some agreements on visa waiver and line of credits is also in the pipeline.
Mukherjee will pay homage to Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah at his mausoleum of in Accra.
He will also be unveiling a statue of Mahatma Gandhi which has been gifted by ICCR, besides planting a sapling.
“Investment in Ghana is substantial, nearly three billion dollars in various sectors. NRI’s, professionals have invested in IT, Pharmaceuticals and other areas. If you look at last three year figures, our trade has gone up nearly three times.
“Ghana’s main trade consists of gold imports, it’s nearly 80 percent of total trade. Ghanaian gold is in great demand in India,” Sinha said.
The President will also be visiting the India-Ghana Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, set up by India, and will meet its faculty and alumni.
“In 2011, a new government has come in and there has been a national reconciliation... With Ivory Coast, since this is the first visit, I guess the difference of languages must have dissuaded other higher level visits because it is one of the francophone countries,” Sinha said.
Mukherjee will be received by President Alassane Ouattara himself at the airport.
He might be honoured with the highest award of that country, besides a symbolic handing over of key of Abidjan city.
“...Exim Bank, is going to re-open its office. It was relocated to Dakar during the civil war, so they have now got all the permissions and are relocating to Ivory Coast. This is their regional office is West Africa to monitor all the lines of credit that we have,” he said.
Ivory Coast, a francophone country, is the biggest producer and exporter of cashew nuts to India which procures nearly 80 per cent of its total exports of cashew nuts.
The final stop will be Windhoek, capital of Namibia, where Mukherjee will meet President Sam Nujoma.
Namibia is a mineral and mining driven economy and India is likely to offer mining engineering training.
“The mining sector contributes roughly 10 or 11 per cent of the GDP but it gets them 50 per cent of their foreign exchange earnings so they are highly dependent on that. It is a small country with a population of around 2.5 or three millions,” Sinha said.
India is likely to sign four MoUs on deputation of Indian Army for training purposes to Namibian Defence Forces and establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology which they need.
“Then there will be an MoU between Namibian Institute of Public Administration and Management and our own IIM Ahmedabad and also between their Public Administration and our Lal Bahadur Shashtri Academy which trains civil servants because they are focused on developing their own capacities,” he said.