It’s the 57th Anniversary of Africa Day! Commemorated every year on 25th May, the day asserts Africa’s dignity and contributions to human civilisation. On this day, Africans pay tribute to their founding fathers who established the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union. The day was established after the heads of state of thirty-two independent African nations signed a charter in Ethiopia in 1963. Celebrated widely across the continent, the day also honours heroes who died in the struggle to liberate their countries from colonial rule. The day has more relevance today, because the world is facing one of the most challenging crises as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time for Africans to fasten their seat belts to mitigate the present health crisis - which has turned more of a human crisis in recent times. As the healthcare system in Africa is extremely fragile and the continent is facing numerous challenges, it also gives India an opportunity to cooperate with the continent. India's partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries. Hence, a sharp focus is being given on the continent’s health systems by cooperating in areas such as telemedicine, pharmaceuticals, capacity building and healthcare services. Agriculture sector is another area where there can be cooperation to ensure food security on the continent.
The relationship between India and Africa is rooted in shared values and principles mirrored in close bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The Coronavirus pandemic recently has augmented India's image as a capable international partner. In this time of global crises, India’s proactive approach to reach out to the African continent has been appreciated by many African nations. The challenges posed by the pandemic have made the India-Africa relationship even stronger. Africa is a region where medical facilities are among the least developed globally. Besides Covid-19, several other diseases like cholera, TB, Malaria, Ebola are widely prevalent on the continent. The Indian government has shifted its focus to Africa by sending essential drugs to several African countries to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Essential drugs include Paracetamol, Hydroxychloroquine and Ibuprofen, besides antibiotics, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-asthmatic and cardiovascular drugs. The list also includes other medical devices like injections and thermometers. In addition, India has extended telemedicine support by partnering with top Indian Institutions with local African institutions to engage and train health care workers of Africa to mitigate the crisis. To meet the common challenge in this difficult time, India has also supplied essentials to Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros under ‘Mission SAGAR’. This medical diplomacy is built on historical goodwill shared between India and Africa. In addition, India has also reached out to the Indian Diaspora in Africa by maintaining close contact with the community. They have been assured of all possible help within the limitations posed by the pandemic.
Africa is poised to be India's priority. A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Modi took personal initiative to call several President’s on the continent to assure India's support to Africa in combating the pandemic.
Despite the fact that our own country is adversely affected by the pandemic and is going through a tough time, we have acted as a responsible stakeholder towards Africa; conveying our ability and support to deepen our relation with the continent as we move ahead.
Our relationship with Africa, thus goes beyond strategic reach and economic interest. It is more to do with the emotional connect that we share and solidarity that we feel for each other. On this day, it's an affirmation to the continent that India has shifted its gears of engagement with Africa, and both will together fight against this pandemic.