All 54 African countries to attend India-Africa summit

New Delhi: All 54 countries, which have been invited, will be represented at the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) that got underway here on Monday, a senior external affairs ministry official said.

"This is a summit of 56 representatives - 54 (countries) from Africa, the African Union and our prime minister," Syed Akbaruddin, additional secretary in the ministry and the chief coordinator of IFAS, told the media.

"We are confident that every institution and country invited will be present when our prime minister will take the floor on October 29. This summit will be a gathering of every country in Africa, the African Union and India, which is unprecedented in the annals of any summit between Africa and any other country," he said.

Though he did not give the exact number of heads of government and state who will be coming, he said that even countries that had elections or where new governments have been formed will be represented at the highest level.

"Several Francophone countries will be attending like Gabon, Guinea. Guinea had elections on October 11. The president of Guinea has consented to come immediately after the elections," Akbaruddin.

"In Guinea Bissau, a new government was formed just two weeks ago. We will also have the president of Guinea Bissau here."

He also informed that the kings of Morocco and Swaziland arrived in New Delhi on Monday and added that there would be representations across boundaries and different sectors.

This will, perhaps, be the first time that all the 54 African countries are coming together outside the continent for such a meeting.

The two previous India-Africa summits were held in 2008 and 2011, in New Delhi and Addis Ababa but with only representative participation from African countries. The actual summit this time among the leaders is scheduled on October 29.

The IAFS formally got underway on Monday with a meeting between senior officials of India and the African countries.

On Tuesday, a ministerial meeting will be held between the foreign ministers of India and the African countries. This will be followed by bilateral meetings between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterparts of several African countries.

The itinerary also includes a grand banquet to be hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, on the evening of October 29.

Ahead of the summit, Prime Minister Modi has said that India's areas of focus in Africa will continue to be human resource development, institution building, infrastructure, clean energy, agriculture, health, education and skill development.

Commerce is high on the agenda. India's trade with Africa has ballooned 20 times in the last 15 years and currently stands at $70 billion. India's investment in Africa range between $30-35 billion.

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