India has found a new gateway to project its Africa diplomacy as it explores a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is engaged in a range of activities in the emerging continent. This possibility of collaborating in Africa emerged from talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
“We explored the possibility of working with the Gates Foundation in Africa, to jointly explore partnership in Africa,” Krishna told reporters here after his talks with Gates. With Africa suffering a host of debilitating health problems like malaria and HIV/AIDS, health has been identified as a focus area for prospective cooperation. The discussions on Africa will continue when Krishna goes to Washington for the India-US strategic dialogue June 12.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who will also be in the US at that time, will also be involved in discussions on forging partnership in the health sector in Africa. Krishna, who had known Gates since his days as the chief minister of Karnataka, lauded the “exemplary service” rendered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in fighting diseases and poverty alleviation. He singled out the Gates Foundation for its contribution in the area of eradication of polio.
India has carved a niche for itself in the health sector in Africa through capacity building initiatives. Indian pharmaceutical companies have expanded their operations across the continent. The pan-Africa e-network, which seeks to bridge the digital divide across the continent, is also bringing benefits of tele-medicine to African people by linking top Indian hospitals with facilities in African countries.
The Indian government also seeks to partner the Gates Foundation in other areas like sanitation. The Gates Foundation had launched successful initiative titled “Reinventing the Toilet” last year in Rwanda in Africa to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of poor people in the developing world.
In a meeting with Gates, Minister for Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh sought his help in solving the problem of open defecation in the country and in creating low-cost sanitation facilities in the country.
The Gates Foundation was urged to partner with Indian institutes in the research and development field to help co-develop low-cost sanitation solutions, the rural development ministry said.
Ramesh also stressed on launching a global joint initiative for developing low-cost technological solutions for clean toilets in Railways, as 11 million passengers commute daily without proper hygienic conditions.