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Africa studies a hot new subject for Indian students

By Pradipta Tapadar and Nazia Jafri, IANS,

New Delhi/Kolkata : With Africa becoming a major growth pole of the world economy, the resource-rich continent and its growing relationship with India have sparked a new interest among Indian students who are opting for Africa studies in increasingly large numbers.

From its rich cultural heritage to booming economy, cinema industry or the civic movements, everything about Africa seems to have fired the imagination of Indian students.

Abhishek Singh, a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) student at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) in New Delhi, plans to do extended research on the developing model of trade between India and Africa.

“I want to do deep research on the growing demand for developing infrastructure and new technologies in Africa and how it provides opportunities for Indian business. I want to become a researcher on India-African business.”

Currently, bilateral trade between India and Africa stands at about $45 billion. At the second India-Africa Forum Summit, the two sides seek to scale it up to $70 billion by 2015.

Akanksha Kukreti, a former media student at JMI, who wished to become a filmmaker, wants to study the booming film industry in Nigeria. For Shyambhavi Saxsena, a student of Master of Arts (MA) in Delhi University (DU), the African civil society movements are a model to the rest of the world and she plans to do research on this subject.

Each one may have his reasons, but they are one in their passion for exploring Africa and the nuances of African society.

Both India and Africa are home to an overwhelming young population who are keen to learn about each other.

Officials at the three main universities in India which provide extensive study programmes on African studies say there is a constant increase in the number of applications every year.

Mumbai University (MU), Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are the three universities in India that provide extensive study programmes on African studies. All the three universities offer M.Phil and Ph.D courses.

Aparajita Biswas, professor and director of Centre for African Studies, MU, says that at present more than 25 students are studying in the department for which more than 50 students had applied.

Biswas told IANS: “Students want to explore the new, burgeoning and dynamic Africa and for this we provide a good platform to them. “The university keeps on arranging seminars, symposiums and workshops for students to further upgrade their knowledge.”

According to latest forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), African economy is expected to grow at over six per cent over the next few years.

For Sushmita, a student of JNU, there are similarities between Indian and African culture. The two-million strong Indian diaspora in Africa and a small diaspora of Siddis who came to India’s Gujarat coast several centuries ago form an enduring cultural bridge.

“I plan to become a lecturer on African studies later in my life with a through experience on Indian and African diaspora,” says Sushmita.

S.N. Malakar, chairperson for African Studies in JNU, says African studies are very popular among students these days. “Forty-three students are studying under our department as of now.”

JNU provides an elaborate study on Africa which includes Francophone Sub-Saharan Studies. Under this 22 countries from Africa are chosen which either had French-speaking background or faced French colonization.

Like MU and JNU, Delhi University also assists students to do research on Africa. But the cherry on the cream for students here is the Swahili language programme. There are certificate and language courses under this programme.

Suresh Kumar, head of the department of African Studies at DU, says, “This is the only programme of its kind in India and it is attracting more and more students every year”.

Apart from these main centres, other universities also offer African studies though there are no extensive departments as such but it can be taken as a research subject under M.Phil and PhD courses. JMI in Delhi and Jadavpur University in Kolkata are among them.

The department of Third World Studies at JMI offers African studies with a combination of other social sciences. The students can research on Africa alone after completing their first year of M.phil.

“Many students are studying on Africa from our department and with each passing year the number increases,” Jamal Moosa, who teaches on Africa in the department, told IANS.

(Pradipta Tapadar and Nazia Jafri can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected])