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Opportunities, achievements and challenges were overriding themes as India celebrated its 65th independence anniversary from British colonial rule on August 15. The anniversary was celebrated in a low key fashion at the Indian Embassy in Addis Ababa with 250 members of India’s community in Ethiopia, where India’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi, unfurled his nation’s tricolored flag.
Mayur Kothari, CEO of Mohan group of companies, and coordinator of the India Business Forum (IBF) said that although India has been able to challenge and turn the pre-independence scourge of being a food deficit country into becoming food self-sufficient, major challenges remain.
“With 50 percent of our population still living in challenging conditions, poverty remains a major issue,” said Mayur adding that quality of life for a substantial portion of the population is still below expectations.
Mayur said Ethio-India relations, especially in the business sector, have been thriving on the twin tracks of public and private sector investment.
He further said the government of India, through its Export and Import (EXIM) Bank, has provided nearly USD 1 billion in soft loans to the Ethiopian government, primarily for sugar development, but also for electrification program and the new railway projects. This is despite the fact that “India is still considered developing, even though it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.” “Indian investment, especially in railways could be of great use and experience for Ethiopia,” said Mayur noting that India has the largest rail network in the world, which it uses to transport its one billion plus population.
He also rebuffed suggestions that Indian investment in African countries including Ethiopia is lagging and being overshadowed by the more organized Chinese investment. He pointed out that China’s economy is larger than that of India and is state driven; and hence comparing the two Asian giants is farfetched.
The Indian ambassador on the independence anniversary read a speech by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee who said it’s time for India to stop and reflect on whether the country has achieved the vision of its independence era leaders like the first Prime Minister of India Jawahrlal Nehru and the Indian constitution architect Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
“I’m not a pessimist; for me, the glass is always half full, rather than half empty,” read Pranab’s statement adding that India’s wide array of productive working class such as its inspiring farmers, imaginative industrial entrepreneurs and its political experts have knit together a modern nation that has leapt within mere decades, across many centuries in economic growth and progressive social legislation.
At the end of the closing ceremony a 9,000 liter TATA water tanker, gifted by the Indian Women’s Association and India Business Forum was handed over to Sister Yanneke M.C., Regional superior, Missionaries of Charity based in Addis Ababa by the Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia who is also the patron of IBF, Rupa Bishnoi President of the India Women Association and Shri Mayur convener of the IBF.