Johannesburg– Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reiterated the top priority India accords to African countries and the global South while stressing on the importance of sharing development experiences.

“My government has given top priority to expand our historical efforts for independence, development and peace in Africa,” Modi said while addressing the BRICS-Africa and BRICS Plus Outreach Dialogue following the 10th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit here.

“In the last four years, we have had more than 100 visits and meetings at the levels of heads of state and various government levels and these have taken our economic relations and development cooperation to a new high,” he said.

“Today, India has offered 180 lines of credit worth $11 billion in more than 40 countries in Africa.”

Stating that every year 8,000 African students get scholarships to study in India, Modi said that his country now has an e-network in 48 African countries for telemedicine.

He also referred to the investment of $54 billion by the private sector through which “we are carrying out capacity building in Africa based on Africa’s needs”.

He recalled his address to the Ugandan Parliament on July 25, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister, in which he outlined 10 principles for India-Africa engagement.

“These 10 principles are the guidelines for collaboration, for development as per the needs of Africa, for cooperation in security and for strengthening hundreds of years of relations between our people,” the Prime Minister said.

He also congratulated all African nations for the important initiative of forming the African Continental Free Trade Area and welcomed the various efforts for regional economic integration in Africa.

Rwanda hosted the Assembly of the African Union in March this year where the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area was signed. Forty four members of the African Union signed the Agreement.

When ratified, the Agreement would be the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

Stating that free trade and commerce has in the last three decades helped hundreds of millions of people to escape from poverty, Modi said: “Taking the benefits of globalisation and development to the people is the most important part of this process and the global South was an equal partner in this effort.”

At the same time, he said that after the financial crisis of 2008, the dark clouds of protectionism are hovering over this fundamental aspect of globalisation.

“The most profound effect of this tendency and decrease in growth rate has been felt by countries such as ours who could not benefit from the industrial progress made during the colonial times,” he said.

Stating that the world today is again at a historic turning point due to the digital revolution, the Prime Minister said: “New opportunities are emerging for us. And that is the reason why it is necessary that we be completely ready for the changes that will come about due to automation, artificial intelligence and big data analytics.”

Following up on his address at the BRICS plenary session on Thursday in which he said that India will work with the economic bloc’s member states for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Modi said that this will require investment in digital infrastructure and skilled workforce.

“At the same time, inclusive global value chain, workers mobility, portable social security frameworks and efficient remittance corridors are also our priority,” he said.

The Prime Minister also said that sharing development experiences in the South-South cooperation and extending all possible support, whether it be technical support, training or capacity building in the developing countries has been an important part of New Delhi’s foreign policy.

“At the same time, as per the requirement and priorities of our partner countries, India has been extending financial assistance to the extent possible in the areas such as infrastructure, power, agriculture, education, health, IT etc. despite being a developing country itself,” he said.

“India’s own development journey, South-South Cooperation has been an essential basis. Sharing our development experiences with other developing countries has always been a priority for India and will continue to remain so.”

The BRICS-Africa and the BRICS Plus Outreach Dialogue was held at the initiative of the host of the 10th BRICS Summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The theme of this year’s Summit is “”BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.

While leaders of various African countries were invited for the BRICS-Africa Outreach, chairs of multilateral groupings such as Argentina (G20 Chair & MERCOSUR member), Indonesia (Co-Chair, New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership and Asean member), Egypt (G77 Chair), and Jamaica (Caricom Chair), Turkey (OIC Chair) were invited for the BRICS Plus Outreach to interact with the BRICS countries. (IANS)