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With vast untapped potential in Agriculture, Africa seeks Agricultural Transformation with India’s Help

Africa is estimated to have 65 percent of world's uncultivated land but only about 10 percent of global food output

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An agricultural land in Vietnam. Image. Wikimedia
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– by Prashant Sood

Gandhinagar, May 28, 2017: With a vast untapped potential in agriculture, African countries are keen to gain from India’s experiences, including the “green revolution”, to bring about a transformation and enable their 420 million poor people to come out of poverty.

Africa is estimated to have 65 percent of world’s uncultivated land but only about 10 percent of global food output.

African Development Bank (AfDB) officials said after their annual meeting here last week that its focus on “transforming agriculture to create wealth” has sparked interest among a vast section, including youth, researchers and the private sector to treat agriculture as a business.

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The meeting boosted Africa’s partnership with India in agriculture as also in several other areas, including infrastructure, electricity generation, skill development and healthcare.

Officials said that AfDB will invest $24 billion in African agriculture in the next 10 years and the sector is estimated to generate $1 trillion in business by 2030.

Chiji Ojukwu, Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department, AfDB, said that India experienced a “green revolution” using improved seed varieties and best agronomic practices, and was able to lift large sections of its population out of poverty — and Africa has a lot to learn from India in order to achieve similar success.

“We can leapfrog, taking advantage of the successes of India, to borrow their technologies and to bring Indian experts to assist Africa,” Ojukwu told IANS.

He said India has made advances in irrigation solutions, milk production, cooling and processing, in solar for generating power for agriculture and Information and Communication Technology.

“African companies and governments can collaborate with Indian agricultural systems and companies to bring these experiences to Africa, to help Africa achieve its agricultural transformation, and lift its 420 million that live on less than $1.25 a day out of poverty,” he said.

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Indian officials said that AfDB’s five key priority areas — Light Up and Power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa and Improve quality of life for the people of Africa — had similarity to some of the thrust areas of the Narendra Modi government.

They said that Industrialise Africa is similar to the Make in India initiative and Light Up and Power Africa to the government’s goal of electricity for all and its efforts to boost renewable energy.

They said that Africa and India had several commonalities in terms of a shared history, challenges as also demographics, with youth comprising over 60 percent of the population.

Indian companies have been investing in Africa in areas such as telecommunications, hydrocarbon exploration, IT, education, water treatment, petroleum refining, retail, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, coal, automobiles, floriculture and engineering.

India is also pursuing long-term arrangements for supply of agricultural products, specially pulses. Its cooperation with Africa is demand-driven and free of conditions.

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Former Foreign Secretary Shashank said India should move much more strongly in Africa.

“India is seen as an alternative to Chinese investment and the kind of conditionalities being imposed on African countries either by the international institutions or Western countries,” Shashank, who was at the conference, told IANS.

He said India can increase its exports to African countries.

“In many cases, we find that our exports are not that competitive but in Africa we can try to make our exports more competitive. Already our bilateral rade has gone fairly high,” he said.

Africa-India trade was estimated at $56 billion in 2015-16, accounting for about 10 percent of India’s total trade.

Shahank said it was “very significant” that the AfDB meeting was held in India for the first time. The five-day annual meeting of AfDB was attended by 54 African members and 27 non-regional member-countries of the organisation. It came almost 18 months after India hosted the third India Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi which was attended by all 54 African countries.

He said it will also help neutralise any negative perception about isolated incidents that had cropped up between the African students in India and the local community.

He also welcomed the Asia-Africa corridor supported by India and Japan, saying the two countries can do quite well in Africa by going together.

“India has that political acceptability, goodwill is there. India goes there, people are happy. Japan’s technology, its finances, Indian fiances and technology and its technical expertise, if they go together, they can do quite well in Africa,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his inaugural address, had said that Africa was a top priority for his government’s foreign and economic policy. (IANS)

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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

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President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

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“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)