Tuesday inaugurated the first-ever convention made by it in Africa with the Foreign Minister S Jaishankar
inaugurating the Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre (MGICC) in Western African state of Niger as part of its
outreach to the continent.
MGICC was jointly inaugurated by President of
Mahamadou Issoufou on 21 January. MGICC is the first center to be established in
Africa by India under grant assistance. The Centre honors the memory of
Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary was observed in 2019.
The establishment of the Centre is a landmark
for Niger-India friendship, as also a symbol of India’s firm commitment towards
Africa. The fourth edition of the India-Africa summit will be held in Delhi
later this year.
The Convention Centre has been designed as a
spacious, modern and eco-friendly facility, including a 2000 capacity Plenary
Hall, to witness high-level and wide-ranging participation from AU Member
States and other high-level Conventions. The construction of MGICC was
completed in record time despite several logistical and technical challenges.
During his stay in Niamey, Jaishankar also
called on Prime Minister of Niger Brigi Rafini and held discussions on a wide
range of bilateral, regional and global issues with his counterpart Kalla
Ankara, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Regional Integration of
India and Niger relations have expanded
significantly in recent years. India has provided lines of Credit worth
$96.54 million to Niger for projects in transport, electrification, solar
energy, and potable drinking water. Several hundreds of officials from Niger
have utilized India’s capacity building training programs under the ITEC
program. India has also extended $15 million grant assistance to Niger in
support of organizing the African Union (AU) summit held in Niamey on 7-8 July
India, for the first time as part of its
capacity building outreach for the developing world has embarked on a unique
initiative to build convention centers across 21 African countries an exercise
that was hitherto considered a success story for China.
Beginning with Niger India is on a mission mode
to set up a convention center 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 incontinent, persons familiar with the process indicated with the
Besides Niger, convention centers will be set up
by India on a priority basis in eight other African nations -- Uganda, Zambia,
Malawi, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo, Gabon and Libera upon request of these
countries, ET has learned. This will be followed by such grand centers in 12
other African nations. It has been learned that the project work is in full
swing in Niger.
Neither of these 21 countries have world-class
convention centers where they can host sub-regional or Pan-African political
Summits and mega business meets.
Building convention centers have so far been
forte of China in South Asia – Bangladesh & Sri Lanka -- and elsewhere which
had reaped them economic and political benefits.
India enjoys enormous goodwill in Africa based
on its training modules and scholarships for African nationals. Besides Indian
business enterprises are expanding footprints on the continent. But this is the
first occasion that India is embarking on infrastructure building initiatives
based on sustained high-level focus given to the continent by the Modi
government. In fact, this is the first such Indian exercise to build convention
centers in any part of the globe.
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.
Delhi’s suggestion to name the convention
centers under Mahatma Gandhi was accepted notwithstanding the fact he is not a
national figure of those countries. However, Mahatma Gandhi enjoys iconic
status in Africa and this enabled acceptance of the Modi government’s suggestion.
These centers will follow local customs,
requirements and architectural designs. “The Convention centers will be symbols
of long-lasting Indian presence in Africa showcasing support and friendship for
the continent,” noted one of the persons quoted above. While Indian firms will
build convention centers, land for the same will be allotted by the local
governments. The ventures are also expected to create local employment through