Modi. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Modi. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will start his four-nation Africa tour from 7 July in an effort to strengthen ties with African nations and meet India’s energy and food security needs.

The four nations that Modi will be visiting are Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. During his visit, he will undertake a train journey from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa where Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from a train in 1893.

Modi’s visit is the third high-level visit to Africa after ones by vice-president Hamid Ansari and President Pranab Mukherjee in the past six months. The visits are part of India’s efforts to consolidate gains made at the third India-Africa summit that took place in New Delhi in October last year.

“All four countries are our maritime neighbours and all of them are gateways to the (African) mainland. Our focus will be on energy—as Mozambique is the third largest exporter of natural gas after Qatar and Australia—and food security, as we are importing large number of food items particularly pulses from them,” said Amar Sinha, secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs.

The visit will be Modi’s first to the African mainland since he became prime minister.

Mozambique is particularly significant to India as it is the destination for nearly a quarter of Indian investments in Africa—$8 billion.

“We also hope to sign a MoU (memorandum of understanding) on government-to-government agreement on purchase of pulses from Mozambique, which is more or less in final stages,” Sinha said.

Sinha said the other significant reasons for the visit to the four countries are India’s maritime interests and the fact that they are members of the India-led International Solar Alliance.

“So we want to see how we can synergize their support,” added Sinha, while indicating that there could be more bilateral visits in the second half of 2016.

During his five-day visit, Modi is scheduled to address two public meetings—the first in Johannesburg in South Africa on 8 July. Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said at least 10,000 people are expected to be present for the address. The second will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 10 July, which is expected to be attended by 20,000 people. “There will be cultural programmes and a speech by PM Modi at both venues. The audience will be Indians living in South Africa and Kenya. We expect a meeting between the prime minister and scientists, professors and students who have visited India in the past in Johannesburg,” said Vijay Chauthaiwale, in-charge of the foreign affairs cell and Overseas Friends of BJP.

The BJP leader said the central theme of Modi’s visit would be that India wants to partner in the development of African countries. “The message of the PM is clear: we are not here to exploit. We want to be partners in development,” Chauthaiwale said.