On TEAM-9 Meeting in New Delhi

March 01, 2004

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER OF INDIA (SHRI YASHWANT SINHA): Friends, as you are aware, this is a meeting between eight countries of West Africa and India. We call it TEAM-9, which is, eight-plus-one in one way, and also Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Movement – this also is the meaning of TEAM-9.

I am glad to inform you that we have eight countries from Africa with us. Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal are represented here. Burkina Faso is represented by H.E. Mr. T. Gean de Dieu Somda, Minister in Charge of Regional Cooperation. Ivory Coast is represented by H.E. Mr. Bamba Mamadou, Foreign Minister. Ghana is represented by H.E. Joseph Henry Mensas, Senior Minister. Guinea Bissau is represented by Mr. Joao Jose Silva Monterio, Foreign Minister. Senegal is represented by H.E. Mr. Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister of Mali could not arrive here this morning. He will be arriving here later today. Equatorial Guinea and Chad are represented at the official level.

We have just had our meeting. Later, after lunch we will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding between India and these eight countries of Africa. We will also be issuing a Joint Statement which we will make available to you.

I would like to say that this is a unique experiment that we are conducting in strengthening our relationship. We have excellent bilateral relationship with each one of these eight countries. But what we are trying to do through TEAM-9 is to bring these eight countries and India together so that we are not only able to promote and enhance our bilateral cooperation but also regional cooperation. Therefore, in TEAM-9 what we will be looking at is projects in each of these eight countries as well as regional projects which will transcend national boundaries.

We have had very interesting discussions. I am grateful to all my colleagues from these countries who have made a valuable contribution to the discussions today. The most important things that have emerged out of our discussions today are two or three. One is that there is political will on the part of all our countries to take our discussion and our cooperation further. The demonstration of political will is represented by the presence of the Foreign Ministers and representatives of these countries.

The second is that we are all determined that it (cooperation) will not be confined merely to an MoU or a Joint Statement, that we will actually translate our cooperation into concrete action in the months to come. We have identified various areas where this cooperation is going to be concretized. I would like to mention for your information a few. We have talked about food security, freedom from hunger, which will mean cooperation in agriculture and water management. We have talked about health security, which will mean health services, pharmaceuticals including alternative systems of medicine. We have talked about employment opportunities or job security through the spread of industries at all levels especially agro industries, small and medium enterprise. We have talked about human resource development. We have talked about connectivity. We have talked about science and technology. Another area which has been suggested by my colleagues from Africa is energy. So, these are some of the priority areas which we will be concentrating upon as we go along.

The third and most important decision which we have taken in our meeting is to have mechanisms which will think of the specific projects and monitor their implementation. This will be a Council of Ministers supported by a Standing Committee, or a Permanent Committee, of officials, and a Joint Business Council. We recognize the role of business in promoting our cooperation and translating our ideas into practice. Therefore, we assigned the highest importance to cooperation at business-to-business level. So, the MoU, as you will see, envisages the setting up of Joint Business Council.

We have also agreed that we will continuously learn from our experience in cooperation. Therefore, we will keep improving the methodology of cooperation from time to time as we go along. The Council of Ministers will meet once a year. After this meeting, the next meeting will be in Africa. We are grateful to Guinea Bissau for having offered to host the next meeting of the Council of Ministers. The Standing Committee of Officials will meet as often as is necessary to push the projects forward. This is the picture that has emerged out of our discussions by and large. But, I would like to give the floor to my colleagues from Africa to give their statement and how they look at it.

FOREIGN MINISTER OF SENEGAL (MR. CHEIKH TIDIANE GADIO): Thank you very much dear colleague and thanks to all our colleagues who are here. In the pure African tradition, I should have asked the Foreign Minister or the representative of Ghana, who is a senior Minister in the Cabinet, to speak for all of us. I will ask him actually to second my statement as soon as I have said a few words – words of thanks, words of gratitude to the Government and the people of India, to the Foreign Minister, and to the State Minister, for the warm welcome we have received in India and this invitation to set a new path in the relationship between India and Africa and to have this wonderful idea of TEAM-9. The concept of "Team” itself in development is a key concept. Like your Foreign Minister just said, bilateral relationships are excellent between each one of our countries. But (we should) think of going to a higher level of cooperation by working together in this team spirit and achieve regional development in Africa with the help and friendship of India and also hopefully – and that is the way you should do business from now on – make sure that India also finds an interest and work for its technology and its private sector. That also leads me to say that this is not Government-to-Government project activity. We want it to be driven by the private sector.

I should congratulate Mr. G. Ratna Velu from India and Mr. Atepa Goudiaby from Senegal, the two private sector people who have been pushing for this. They got the right response from the political authorities. So, we are extremely hopeful, after this meeting, that this will be different, that this will yield the outcomes that we are expecting and both India and Africa will strongly benefit from the TEAM-9 spirit.

India is a model, a role model for developing countries around the world, especially in Africa. You have shown us the way that we can defeat poverty, we can defeat underdevelopment. You still have your challenges but you have joined the developed world in many important areas of science and technology, satellite communication, IT communication. Frankly, we are very proud of what you are doing, what you are achieving here and that you are refusing once again the fatality of underdevelopment. So, congratulations to you and good luck to the TEAM-9 project.

QUESTION: You talked about excellent bilateral relations with each of these eight countries and India. But the common perception is that India has gone to Africa whenever India has needed their votes in the United Nations. Now, for the first time a concerted effort seems to have been made to engage these eight countries of West Africa in a sustained dialogue. Can you please tell us whether the beginning which has been made will be raised to the Summit level? Secondly, will this techno-economic cooperation, which you have talked about, be also diversified and apart from trade and commerce, strategic issues also be given a look in?
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER OF INDIA: I do not know whether I am in a position to agree with the first part of your statement that we have looked at Africa only in terms of votes. No, that has not been our policy. We have had much deeper engagement with Africa, all parts of Africa in fact. What we are doing here today is trying to build up a completely new model of relationship. This is what I emphasized when I said that we have excellent bilateral relationship. That, of course, we have and we will continue to have, but it is this model, the concept of TEAM-9. We have not called it, for instance, a G-9. It is not a G-9, it is TEAM-9. It is the team spirit that we are, therefore, emphasizing through this model that we have evolved. The distinguished Foreign Minister of Senegal has just told you about how, over a period of time, this has been thought through and evolved. This was an idea which was discussed when His Excellency the President of Senegal was here some month sago. We have been in touch. Mr. Digvijay Singh, my colleague has visited many of these countries in West Africa. The Foreign Secretary, Mr. Shashank has visited many of these countries. We are, through this model, trying to build up a long term and sustained relationship.

I forgot to mention to you that India has expressed its readiness to commit up to 500 million US dollars for projects in these countries on a regional basis, on a bilateral basis. What we have discussed today is largely the furtherance of our relationship in the economic and social area. Take for instance human resource development, that is a social area. As far as the political issues are concerned, we have not discussed them here today.

We will let that evolve as we go along. At the moment the focus is economic cooperation and cooperation in the social field. That is how I look at it.

QUESTION: Could you tell us why did it take such a long time for the West African countries and India to rediscover each other? Also, what do you think India can give you that a lot of other countries cannot?
FOREIGN MINISTER OF GHANA: Perhaps rediscovering is the wrong word. We never lost track of each other. In my own country Ghana, there is a huge Indian community carrying on a long tradition of economic cooperation. Since Ghana became independent soon after India, we have also maintained very close diplomatic relationship. So, we are not rediscovering each other. We are taking our relationship onto a new plane, restructuring its new model, a model where the governments will be more determinedly cooperating in sharing technology especially the great success that India has achieved by building a modern knowledge-based economy overcoming tremendous handicaps that were visible all over this country at the time of independence. It is a great inspiration to all of us; it has been for years. We are here trying to build more formal institutions through which this experience, achievements, can be spread and replicated in our countries and where mutual commerce may also grow more intensively as it has done in the past. We are especially grateful to the Indian Government that at this juncture it has found it possible to commit such significant amount of resources to back this technological and economic cooperation.

MEMBER, AFRICAN DELEGATION: I come from a very small country, perhaps one of the smallest countries among the member-countries of TEAM-9. Why have we come together today? The world has changed. We have spent nearly four centuries where most countries had relations through Europe with each other. So, Africa would be dealing with Europe and other countries. The rapid integration that has taken place in the world has changed the political landscape and we are moving towards a multi-polar world. India is emerging as a very strong country in this new scenario. It has affirmed itself as a great economic power in the world. Earlier we talked about France-Africa Summits, or Europe –Africa Summits, or US-Africa Summits, but today things are changing. We are talking about relations between Africa and China. Now, with this new initiative of TEAM-9, it will be India with Africa.

In the 18th century, a philosopher once said that if a country wants to be free, it must be able to trade with various partners and various countries. I think that is what is important today. We have to reinvent the world. If not, we are going to be subjecting ourselves to initiatives taken by other countries. TEAM-9 is an initiative for the mutual benefit of all our countries. In 20-30 years from now, India will be one of the most populated countries in the world. This is certainly a concern. Food will definitely be a concern. How are we going to feed this population? But we must not forget that this also puts India at the head of the world markets. Africa cannot but take into account this new world situation. Another thing that shows in this meeting is the importance that Africa will soon play in the world scenario. Today when we think of Africa, we think of disease, war and epidemics. Very soon, Africa will play an important role. We are a big market and a big partner in the world. That is the spirit that TEAM-9 reflects today.


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