India plans to open 18 new embassies across Africa and ‘intensify’ its engagement in the region, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Kampala, Uganda on Wednesday.
“As with Uganda, we have deepened our partnership and engagement across the vast expanse of Africa,” Modi said during an address to the Ugandan Parliament - the first ever by a serving Indian prime minister. “And we are also opening 18 new embassies in Africa.”
Modi also thanked Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for encouraging Ugandans of south Asian origin to return to the country after their expulsion by the dictator Idi Amin in 1972.
“Your visionary leadership has enabled Ugandan people of Indian origin to return to their cherished home, regain their lives and help rebuild the nation that they deeply love,” Modi stated.
He said plans are underway to build a Gandhi Heritage Centre in remembrance of India’s independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi in eastern Uganda, who lived in various African countries for more than two decades.
Modi in his spirited speech at the parliament said even as India fought for independence, it bore the fate of Africa in its mind.
“Mahatma Gandhi firmly believed that India’s freedom will remain incomplete so far Africa remained in bondage,” he said.
“We stood firm in opposition to apartheid in South Africa. We took leading and bold positions in former Rhodesia - which is now Zimbabwe, in Guinea Bassa, Angola, and Namibia,” he told lawmakers at the parliament.
India seeks to boost investment and trade opportunities with Africa offering credit lines to Uganda and 39 countries on the continent, according to local media reports.
“We want to implement 118 lines of credit worth US$11 billion in over 40 African countries. Over 8,000 African youth are trained in India. Our efforts will be driven by your priorities. We fought against colonialism together, we shall fight for prosperity together,” he is quoted as saying in Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper.
The Indian premier is on a five-day, three-nation tour of Africa which included a previous visit to Rwanda on Monday.
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During his trip to Rwanda, Modi held talks with president Paul Kagame on Monday on India’s investment in critical sectors of the country and announced that India would open a High Commission in the country.
He visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda’s capital where he laid a wreath in commemoration of the mass killings of Rwandans in the 1994 genocide.
Modi departed Uganda for South Africa where he’s currently participating in the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.
Stephanie Busari contributed to this report