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Gambian foreign minister: We want to work with India

New Delhi, Aug 22 (Calcutta Tube) India’s experience in development is a crucial learning tool for Africa’s smallest mainland nation, whose president is an admirer of India, to develop its own economy and social sectors like education, Gambian Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara said here.

Visiting at the invitation of the Indian government, Tangara was here last week sason a four-day trip, which was important in re-vitalising relations as India was looking towards Africa. Gambia is located on the western coastline of Africa and has a population of around 1.7 million.

‘We have similar problems. India contains aspects of both developing and developed nations,’ Tangara told IANS in an interview.

‘Instead of reinventing the wheel, our president (Yahya Jammeh) had said it was important to come and work with India in this regard,’ he added.

Tangara said there was a discussion on the forthcoming visit of the Gambian president, who is an ‘admirer of India’. ‘We are still working out the dates,’ the minister said.

There was a substantial Indian community in Gambia that was influential in the country’s economy. ‘The Indians in Gambia are doing good business, especially in the construction sector,’ he said.

Tangara said his country was a potential hub for Indian investors to set up their business and cater to the entire West African market.

‘We have a lot of incentives and tax holidays for businesses. It is possible to set up a new business in Gambia within 72 hours,’ he said.

Tangara had earlier met Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal in Paris at a meeting of Unesco. ‘Sibal is a very inspiring leader and I know about the changes that he is trying to bring in the country’s education system,’ he said.

India has been allotted 30 slots under the ministry of external affairs’ Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme for scholarships in different training institutes in the country.

Besides, Gambia also has eight slots under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations’ General Cultural Scholarship Scheme.

‘The minister had talked about increasing scholarships for students from Gambia. But the main point is that the minister was talking about Indian educational institutes investing in the country,’ Tangara said.

He also met with Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, who hosted a dinner in his honour at Hyderabad House.

The ministers signed a protocol for consultation, which according to Tangara is akin to a framework agreement.

‘Under this agreement, we will discuss and look for negotiating other deals, especially in sectors like agriculture, health and education,’ he said.

The Pan-African e-network, India’s flagship initiative in the continent, had set up tele-medicine and tele-education facilities in the country last year.

Kaur told the visiting minister that India was ready to consider any new proposal from the Gambian side for bilateral cooperation in capacity building. She announced a grant of $500,000 for projects in the social service sectors and education and health areas.

(Devirupa Mitra can be contacted at devirupa.m@ians.in)

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