India boosts HE cooperation with North Africa

In an effort to expand its ‘Look Middle East’ policy, India has announced a number of initiatives to boost higher education cooperation with three major natural resources-rich North African countries – Morocco, Tunisia and Sudan.

The initiatives were unveiled during a week-long visit by India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to the three Arab African countries, linked to India's food and energy security needs.

The visit, which ended on 5 February, included three days in Morocco, three in Tunisia and two in Sudan.

Morocco and Tunisia – the 2011 birthplace of the Arab Spring movement – are important partners in India’s quest for food security due to significant exports of phosphate for use in India’s fertiliser industry, which plays a key role in the agricultural sector.

India is the second largest exporter to Sudan, and there is active engagement in the field of energy with several Indian companies.

The initiatives

While in Morocco, Khurshid said India had proposed setting up an information and communication technology centre there and was taking steps to implement the proposal.

The centre would be established as a home for ‘knowledge entrepreneurs’ and would stimulate growth of the ICT sector well as providing an enabling environment for innovation, teaching and learning, and practical research on the application of ICT for development.

Khurshid said India was also willing to offer additional slots and scholarships to Morocco for training and higher education under various Indian government schemes.

Morocco and Tunisia are receiving training courses under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, or ITEC, programme. Morocco used 25 ITEC slots in 2013-14. There are 45 ITEC training slots earmarked for Tunisia. A good number of Tunisians received training in India under India-Africa Forum Summit initiatives.

In Sudan, which is in the Nile valley and borders Egypt, Khurshid indicated that India was offering scholarships to Sudanese students along with training.

“We open our educational institutions to our friends from Sudan – about 225 of them go to study in India annually on government of India scholarships, for both long- and short-terms; another 1,500 or more go on a self-financing basis every year.”

India’s ambassador to Sudan, Sanjay Kumar Verma, was quoted by Sudan Vision Daily as saying: “In order to leverage our friendship further, we are also engaged in creating institutions of human resource development in Sudan. Two such ongoing projects include a centre for English language training and another one for vocational training.”

African students in India

Although it is difficult to put an exact number on Sudanese citizens who have graduated in India, the estimate is 30,000. Last month, India’s Telegraph reported that 4,759 Sudanese students in India formed the second largest foreign student group in the country after Afghans in 2012.

The cost-effective nature of Indian institutions and the lack of adequate opportunities in some African nations were said to be prime factors behind a surge in African students going to India. For instance, Sudan has been in a state of civil war until 2011.

The Telegraph report said there had been enhanced activities between Indian and African higher education institutions in the last five years, with India projecting itself as an ideal study destination.

More than 10,400 students from seven African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda – now study in India, accounting for a sizeable 13% of the entire foreign student population.

The report also said that India’s National University of Educational Planning and Administration would establish an Africa Institute of Educational Planning and Administration in Burundi, while Educational Consultants India Limited would set up an African Institute of Information Technology in Ghana.

The Indian government had asked some Indian institutions to set up campuses in Africa. In 2007, India launched the Pan African e-Network Project that now provides tele-education and tele-medicine services to 53 African countries.