Accra (Ghana), May 3 (IANS) India is attempting to bridge the gap with Africa by roping in the young through a four-year long programme that comes on the back of increased trade.
This latest engagement with Africa is likely to see a further improvement in the relationship as trade between India and Africa blossomed over the past few years. The Indian government says it has targeted to grow trade to Africa to $90 billion by 2015.
In addition to this growth in trade, the external affairs ministry has embarked on an ambitious campaign to win the hearts of the continent's youth through a new programme called, "Indiafrica: a shared future" over the next four years (2011-14).
Udita Das, a consultant at New Delhi-based company IdeaWorks, which is coordinating the campaign, said: "It is part of an effort to implement the decisions of the India-Africa Forum Summits."
The Public Diplomacy Division of the external affairs ministry has drawn up a number of programmes to engage the youth in Africa for promoting India-Africa relations, she added.
Figures produced by the department of trade show that Indian exports to Africa, south of the Sahara, for the period 2011 up to April-June 2012 totalled $4,827.65 million representing 6.63 per cent of entire global exports.
Trade figures for the 2010-11 period totalled $16,281.09 million and represents 6.46 percent of the total global exports which amounted to $251,135.89 million for the same period. For the period 2011 up to April-June 2012, the figure was $72,722 million.
The figures go on to show that exports to the Southern African region in 2011 topped with $5,700.69 million representing 2.27 percent of the global total whilst East Africa followed with $5,564 million representing 2.21 of the global total. This was followed by West Africa with $4,545.75 million representing 1.81 percent of the global total. Central Africa received $470.65 million representing 0.81 percent of the global total.
For the period 2011 to April-June 2012, the figures show East Africa leading with $1,578 million representing 2.17 percent of the global total. West Africa, $1,550.45 representing 2.13 percent of the global total, South Africa, $1542.90 million representing 2.12 percent of the global total and Central Africa, $156.30 million, representing 0.12 percent.
Not just trade, India wants to do more with the continent.
"There is a progressive demographic advantage of a youthful population between India and the continent that must be used to benefit the people of both regions," said Udita Das.
Das said the programme is intended to give a "platform to the youth so that they can compete, collaborate and co-create".
She said that it "is a unique public diplomacy and youth outreach project that aims to create a dynamic platform for students and professionals across India and Africa to collaborate through competitive, innovation and entrepreneurship".
For this year, Das said, there would be contests in business plans, poster design, photography and essay writing.
"These competitions are open to participants in seven different languages - English, Hindi, Swahili, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic."
There are 18 cash prizes for three winners each from Eastern, Western, Central and Southern Africa as well as India.
This month, a campaign is planned to be held in Ghana, which would see an interactive session with students in the University of Ghana campus, with participation of eminent speakers from India and Ghana, followed by evening entertainment with participation of Indian artists/DJ and a Ghanaian band.
This would be followed by a half-day interactive business session in a business school in Accra with participation of Indian and Ghanaian young entrepreneurs.
Das said: "India shared a common past with Africa and has a shared future, for that reason there is the need for India to engage with Africa."
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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