Stating that India is “lamenting and complaining” about Chinese presence in Africa, Henry Oryem Okello, a senior minister from Uganda, on Saturday said Indians will be left stranded on the railway platform if they fail to grab the opportunities that Africa offers.
Speaking during “Africa Day” event at Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Okello, Uganda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (International Affairs), said Indians had arrived first but “ignored a beautiful Africa” — the Chinese came subsequently and took it over. “I look forward for Indians to come back and do what they know best,” he said.
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani were among those present at the event.
Okello said: “I keep reading about continuous complaints of the international community about China in Africa. Indians were in charge before the Chinese, were doing business before the Chinese. (But) somewhere along the way you stagnated; the Chinese took the opportunity and grabbed all that was there between our relationship.”
He said, “We cannot continue talking, lamenting and complaining about the Chinese — you cannot… The governments are stable and there are opportunities. There are 54 countries, and its is there for you for the taking. If you continue complaining and looking back, you will lose the opportunities — the train will leave, you will continue standing on the platform, and the train will not come back.”
The African leader’s remarks come at a time when India and Japan are in the process of setting up an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) to counter the influence of China and its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
Pointing out that Indians are “hardworking”, and Uganda is full of stories of Indians from humble beginnings who made it big, Okello said, “It is not too late (for India to reclaim influence in African countries).”
Okello, whose father, General Tito Lutwa Okello, was the Ugandan President between July 1985 and January 1986, said the government there has “invited Indians who had lost their properties and assets to come back to Uganda…we look forward to many of you coming to Uganda.”
Speaking later, External Affairs Minister Swaraj pointed out that an “Africa Day” is being organised for the first time at Vibrant Gujarat and said, “This is a clear recognition of the enhanced importance we attach to the place of African economies in the development and growth map of contemporary world.”
She said, “Strong India-Africa relations will go a long way in redefining the contours of international order on more egalitarian lines.”
Swaraj said India-Africa bilateral trade was $62.66 billion in 2017-18, a nearly 22-per cent year-on-year increase. Describing India as the fifth largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments of $54 billion, Swaraj said, “Currently, 189 projects in 42 African countries for nearly $11.4 billion are being implemented under Indian LoCs. These projects have had a positive impact in many African countries and are changing lives.”
Among other ministers from African nations who spoke at the summit was Rwanda’s Oliver Nduhungirehe, who said both India and Rwanda have a “culture of cows” and recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifting 200 cows during his visit to the country last year.
Calling his country an investment destination, Namibian minister Tjekero Tweya said it is the fifth largest uranium producer in the world and the 12th largest diamond producer.