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India Takes Convention Centre Route to Africa

India has for the first time embarked on a unique initiative to build convention centres across 21 African countries, an exercise that was hitherto considered a success story for China.

Beginning with Niger in western Africa, India is on a mission mode to set up a convention centre enabling Niamey (capital city) to host the African Union Summit in 2019.

Unlike the model followed by Africa’s other partners (read China), India’s initiative is demand driven, upon request from its partners in continent, said persons familiar with the process.

Convention centres will also be set up on a priority basis in eight other African nations — Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo, Gabon and Liberia upon their request, ET has learnt. This will be followed by such grand centres in 12 other African nations.

Neither of these 21 countries have world class convention centres where they can host sub-regional or Pan-African political summits and mega-business meets.

Building convention centres have so far been the forte of China, especially in South Asia— Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — and elsewhere.

 

India enjoys enormous goodwill in Africa based on its training modules and scholarships for African nationals. Besides Indian business enterprises are expanding footprints in the continent. But this is the first time that India is embarking on infrastructure building initiatives.

In the past, India has created Presidential Palace in Ghana, Parliament in Ghana, besides the Parliament building in Afghanistan. India is also setting up the Parliament building in Swaziland as decided during President Ram Nath Kovind’s recent visit to the southern African country.

These centres, to be built entirely by grants from India, will be named as Mahatma GandhiConvention Centres and is the brainchild of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, ET has learnt. The initiative is being launched on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatama Gandhi.

ET has learnt that Delhi’s suggestion to name the convention centres under Mahatma Gandhi was accepted despite the fact he is not a national figure of those countries. However, Mahatma Gandhi enjoys iconic status in Africa and this enabled the acceptance of Modi government’s suggestion.

These centres will follow local customs, requirements and architectural designs. “The convention centres will be symbols of long lasting Indian presence in Africa showcasing support and friendship for the continent,” said one of the persons quoted above.

While Indian firms will build convention centres, land for the same will be allotted by the local governments. The ventures are also expected to create local employment through sub-contracts and associated.

While Kovind has visited Africa thrice since being elected to office — all his three foreign visits being to Africa — Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu will visit countries in southern Africa in the near future. PM Modi, who will be in South Africa in July for the BRICS Summit, will also visit two other countries during that trip. He is also expected to visit Egypt in Northern Africa this year.

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