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Rwanda-Uganda visit has reinforced our Africa ties: Ansari

On Board Special Aircraft: Vice President Hamid Ansari on Friday said that India's ties with Africa has been reinforced with his productive visits to Uganda and Rwanda, amid New Delhi's renewed focus on the resource-rich continent. "All in all, it was a good, productive visit and reinforced our long-standing ties with the African countries," Ansari told reporters on board his special aircraft during his return journey after his five-day visit to the two nations.

"Our focus on Africa is a critical part of the outlook towards the world," he said, adding that the two East African countries received India with "exceptional warmth".

In Uganda from February 21-23, Ansari held talks and reviewed the bilateral ties with President Yoweri Museveni.

"We remain committed to working together in trade, investment, development corporation, agriculture, IT defence cooperation domains. We also agreed to expand cooperation in the energy sector and training of personnel for space programme and peaceful use of atomic energy," Ansari said.

India and Uganda have made "tremendous strides" in the development of renewable energy capacity and therefore would be in a position to enhance mutual cooperation in the sector, according to a joint statement issued on February 22. Ansari announced a "gift from India to Uganda" of medicines worth $2 million and medical equipment worth $1 million, the statement said. Museveni thanked Ansari for the "gift" that would help address health needs in his country.

Uganda also expressed desire to replicate India's schemes for digital inclusion and praised New Delhi for deputing an ICT expert in the Office of the Minister for Information and Communications Technology. "As long-standing friends, we are there to give them (African nations) assistance in areas they need," Ansari said.

He said India will discuss the possibility of starting air services to Uganda, home to about 30,000 Indian-origin people. "Air India has its own limitation and priorities. But, based on a large Indian community, it could make it possible for a public or private sector airline to fly to Entebbe Airport. So, let us go back and discuss it with the Ministry of Civil Aviation... But, presence of direct services will certainly be of great help," Ansari said.

India and Rwanda, however, have signed an agreement during this visit to start a direct flight between Kigali and Mumbai from April 3.

Ansari also stressed the importance of the East African Community but said the engagement with EAC members would "not be purely bilateral" as it may effect other countries in the regional inter-governmental grouping.

"EAC is taking shape as an economic community and to some extent as a political community and so many of our initiatives will not be purely bilateral as it will have effects on other members of the EAC," Ansari said. The EAC consists of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. With a sizeable population, a land area of 1.85 million sq km, and a combined GDP of $41 billion, it bears a great strategic and geopolitical significance.
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