By Prarthana Mitra
Keen on establishing a leadership role in Africa’s development, the Indian government has launched a digital network promoting knowledge and health in the continent on Monday. Although China had pledged to expand its outreach programmes all over the continent long before, it seems that India has expedited its operations in a bid to foster stronger relations with Africa, which has been a foreign policy priority under the Modi government.
This five-year project is a technological upgrade and extension of the Pan-African e-Network Project (Phase 1) which was implemented in 48 partner countries across Africa from 2009 till 2017.
A digital bridge for knowledge and health
The Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, inaugurated the next leg of the project which aimed at making tele-education courses free and accessible to 4,000 students from all African countries every year. These courses would pertain to various academic disciplines, while special funding will be provided to 1,000 promising candidates. This scholarship will be open to African doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, so that they can continue free medical education. Indian doctors will further provide free medical consultancy to African doctors who seek it, according to Economic Times.
A data centre and disaster recovery centre will be established in India besides several learning centres across African countries that choose to participate in the project. Two separate platforms for tele-education and telemedicine will connect reputed educational institutions and hospitals in India to participating African students in their respective learning centres, via web-based technology.
A competition ensues
President Xi Jinping’s $60 billion package for Africa recently invited harsh criticism and concern over Chinese debts in Africa. Indian officials claimed to have an edge over China, and the ability to offer what China has not been able to offer. “While China may offer largesse, Indian teachers have shaped the future of African youth for decades. The current project also extends to French-speaking Western Africa,” an expert, who is part of the project, told ET.
India’s relations with African nations have progressed at a fast pace in the last decade, on crucial issues like security and economy. Swaraj said on Monday, “Over the years we have built several bridges with Africa…. Today, we are here to build a bridge which is no less important – the bridge of knowledge and health between India and Africa…. India’s vision of Indian Ocean security is cooperative and inclusive, rooted in security and growth for all in the region. We must all work together to ensure that Africa does not once again turn into a theatre of rival ambitions, but becomes a nursery for the aspirations of Africa’s youth.”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius