By RODNEY MUHUMUZA
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged Wednesday to “intensify and deepen” the Asian country’s engagement with Africa, saying his government will do more to support African governments.
In remarks to Uganda’s legislature, Modi said that “Africa will be at the top of our priorities,” saying that India intends to open 18 embassies in Africa.
“India is proud to be Africa’s partner,” he said. “Our development partnership will be guided by your priorities. It will be on terms that will be comfortable for you, that will liberate your potential and not constrain your future.”
He extoled the ideals of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, saying: “India’s freedom will remain incomplete so long as Africa remains in bondage.”
India’s government is planning to build a Gandhi heritage center at the source of the Nile River in eastern Uganda where some of Gandhi’s ashes were immersed, he said during his two-day visit to this country.
Modi on Tuesday announced his government would lend Uganda up to $205 million to expand the electricity grid and boost commercial farming.
India has been trying to build trade relationships in Africa. In 2015 Modi invited African leaders to New Delhi for an India-Africa summit that was the biggest of its kind.
Uganda’s government depends heavily on outside money, especially loans from Chinese banks, to implement increasingly ambitious infrastructure projects.
Uganda has a substantial Indian community, including a group of industrialists who have flourished in the years since they returned to claim assets that had been seized during the rule of dictator Idi Amin.
In 1972 Amin ordered the expulsion of Asians, many of them Indian traders, from this East African country, saying he wanted to put the economy back in the hands of Ugandans. Most of the seized property has since been handed back to the original owners by President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
Since then businessmen of Indian origin have invested heavily in Uganda’s manufacturing, agricultural processing and pharmaceutical sectors.
Later Wednesday Modi will attend a summit in South Africa of the BRICS emerging economies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is also attending that summit.