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India to Step Up Trade and Investment in Africa

India has announced measures to increase trade and investment in Africa, at the start of a two-day summit with African leaders. As Anjana Pasricha reports, the summit being hosted by New Delhi aims at deepening political and trade links with the continent.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to increase financial aid and encourage exports from African nations.

Mr. Singh was inaugurating the first-ever India-Africa summit, which is being attended by leaders and senior officials from 14 African countries. He told African leaders India intends to become a close partner in the continent's resurgence.

"The 21st Century is often described as the Asian Century," Mr. Singh said. "India wishes to see the 21st Century as the century of Asia and Africa, with the people of the two continent working together to promote inclusive globalization."

The Indian leader says New Delhi will allow duty-free imports and give preferential market access to a number of products, such as cotton and cocoa from lesser developed countries in the region.

India will invest $500 million in development projects in Africa, in the next five years.

It will also double financial credit to African countries from about two-billion dollars during the past five years to $5.4 billion.

Prime Minister Singh says India wants to partner with Africa in developing agriculture, infrastructure, education and industry.

New Delhi has organized the summit with an eye to strengthening trade and political ties with Africa, which is rich in resources needed by India for its growing economy. Africa is also potential market for Indian manufactured goods.

India wants to ensure that it is not left behind by China, which has emerged as a key trading partner with several African countries. China is also ahead in the race to gain access to Africa's rich oil and gas assets, which are sought after by both the Asian countries.

African leaders say they are willing to share their resources, but want partners who will help them lift the continent out of poverty.

Ghana President John Kufuor say African nations need help to industrialize.

"Africa cries for technological and scientific development for its drive into modernity and accelerated growth to improve the quality of life of its various peoples," Mr. Kufuor said.

But AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare says African nations are not looking for "cosmetic funding" or aid.

He says Africa wants partnerships that will not use it as a source for raw materials, like colonial rulers, but who will deal with the continent on an "equal footing."

New Delhi has historical ties with Africa, dating back to the time when both India and several African nations were ruled by European countries. It hopes to build on these ties to increase its influence on the continent.