Pranab goes to Ethiopia Tuesday


New Delhi : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee goes to Ethiopia, Africa's second largest country, Tuesday on a four-day visit – his first trip to an African country since he became foreign minister late last year.

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Mukherjee's visit to Addis Ababa is set to give an impetus to India's multi-faceted ties not just with Ethiopia but also with the African continent that has emerged as the hub of global oil industry and holds the key to the UN Security Council reforms.

The focus of the minister's visit is economic, with India and Ethiopia expected to sign an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which was approved by the cabinet last month.

Two more agreements on establishing a joint ministerial committee and holding foreign office consultations will be signed during Mukherjee's visit.

Besides holding talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Seyoum Mesfin, Mukherjee will also call on President Woldegiorgis Girma, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and senior cabinet ministers of Ethiopia – home to the headquarters of the 53-nation African Union (AU) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

In a special gesture, he will address the foreign affairs committee of the Ethiopian parliament.

India's dream project in Africa – the Pan-African e-network being built with Indian funds and technical assistance – will move one step closer to reality when the minister launches the pilot projects of the tele-education and tele-medicine components of the proposed network.

The project aims at bridging the digital divide among 53 countries of the African continent and bring benefits of tele-education and tele-medicine to people in these countries.

The cost of the pilot project for Ethiopia is $2.13 million, which has been given as grant by India.

Mukherjee will hold discussions with Alpha Oumar Konare, chairperson of the African Union commission and address African permanent representatives to the AU. In his meeting with Konare, he will focus on mobilising support of the AU for the G-4 resolution initiated by India, Brazil, Germany and Japan for expansion of the Security Council.

As China increases its presence in energy and infrastructure sectors of Africa, the minister will hold a meeting with Indian heads of mission in sub-Saharan Africa to energise India's diplomatic efforts to build on New Delhi's old ties with the African continent in the context of changing global realities.