India-Africa trade institute to start next year

New Delhi, Oct 6 (IANS) An institute of foreign trade that India is setting up in Uganda will start offering courses from next year.

The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) is the nodal agency for setting up the India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade (IAIFT) and its director Surajit Mitra said, "The project, in a small way, through use of infrastructure of the implementing agency in Uganda - the Uganda Management Institute - could commence in 2014".

"In the meanwhile, the process of identifying land for the construction of the IAIFT building is being taken up by the government of Uganda in consultation with the African Union," Mitra told IANS in an interview.

During the India-Africa Forum Summit in April 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced that India would help establish 19 educational institutions in Africa as part of the Indian government's capacity-building initiatives in the continent. The India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade is one of them. It was originally planned to start functioning in 2010-11.

Mitra said functioning of the new institute is delayed because of issues related to infrastructure and design of the courses.

"IIFT had submitted an initial estimate of the requisite infrastructure of IAIFT to make it functional in 2010-11. This estimate is being re-looked by both parties in the light of increase in the number and duration of programmes planned from the first year of the operationalisation of the project," he said.

The Indian government has committed Rs.70 crore and will bear the cost of all soft infrastructure like faculty, library set-up and expenses on information and communication technologies required for running the institute.

"In the initial years of the project, IIFT faculty will support local faculty in a big way in administering and delivery of the programmes."

Established in 1963 by the government of India, IIFT is headquartered in New Delhi and also has a campus in Kolkata. Apart from the full-time masters in business management courses, the institute offers part-time management courses and short-term diploma programmes for executives.

It also runs some specialised programmes in collaboration with foreign institutions, but it has no full-fledged overseas campus in any country.

Mitra said IIFT would take all possible steps to maintain quality and standards of students and courses at the IAIFT being set up at the Ugandan capital Kampala.

He said initially only students from Africa would be given admission at the institute.

"Applications will be initially invited from all over Africa and the established criteria will then be used to select students for programmes in international business," Mitra said.

"Over a period of time, admissions to IAIFT will be open to students from other countries as well," he added.

As part of the commitment made by the Indian prime minister in 2008, IIFT has conducted customised capacity-building programmes on international business in different parts of Africa.

So far the programmes have been conducted in 13 African countries. Each of the programmes was customised to incorporate specific issues related to the host countries and focussed on enhancing participants' awareness on various issues related to international business environment and helping them improve overall skills and competency in the management of international trade and business.

"India is committed to engaging with African countries through capacity-building programmes. IIFT, as the implementing agency, is already playing a vital role towards capacity-building by organising short-term programmes on international business in different countries of Africa," Mitra said.

"IAIFT will be a permanent, visible symbol of capacity-building of high quality by India in the area of international business in Africa," he said.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at gyanendra.k@ians.in)

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