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First convention centre made by India in Africa launched as Delhi enters China's turf

India on Tuesday inaugurated 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.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2020, 06.55 PM IST
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New Delhi: India on Tuesday inaugurated 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 Niger Mahamadou Issoufou on 21 January. MGICC is the first centre to be established in Africa by India under grant assistance. The Centre honours 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 Ankourao, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Regional Integration of Niger.

India and Niger relations have expanded significantly in the 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 programmes under ITEC programme. 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 last YEAR.

India, for the first time as part of its capacity building outreach for the developing world, has embarked on an unique initiative to build convention centres 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 centre 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 in continent, persons familiar with the process indicated with the process.

Besides Niger, convention centres 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 learnt. This will be followed by such grand centres in 12 other African nations. It has been learnt that the project work is in full swing in Niger.

Neither of these 21 countries have world class convention centres where they can host sub-regional or Pan-African political Summits and mega business meets.

Building convention centres 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 in the continent. But this is the first occasion that India is embarking on infrastructure building initiative 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 centres 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 centres under Mahatma Gandhi was accepted notwithstanding the fact he is not a national figure of those countries. However, Mahatma Ganhhi enjoys iconic status in Africa and this enabled acceptance of Modi government’s suggestion.

These centres will follow local customs, requirements and architectural designs. “The Convention centres 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 centres, land for the same will be allotted by the local governments. The ventures are also expected to create local employment through sub-contracts.

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