Ethiopian Cultural Centre a forum for India-Africa relations

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) With their relations going back centuries, it is in the fitness of things that of the 54 countries on the African continent, the first to open a cultural centre in India should be Ethiopia, the land from where homo sapiens are said to have originated. And which is also the home of coffee.

The centre opened earlier this year in the leafy environs of the capital’s diplomatic enclave aiming to serve as a “forum for strengthening the age-old relations between India and Africa,” its director, Ashok Verma, said.

Designed as a set of bright halls around a central courtyard, the centre has a diner and a coffee lounge, where one can sample a selection of Ethiopian dishes and snacks, as also drink a cup of coffee that is freshly brewed in an elaborate and traditional ceremony. The story of coffee is said to have its beginnings in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant, coffee arabica, was discovered over a thousand years ago.

“Ethiopian and Indian food has many similarities, not the least in the use of spices and chillies. So to bring to India the taste of Ethiopian food was a major reason for this cultural “entre,” Metasebia Tadesse, minister counselor at the Ethiopian embassy, told IANS.

Tadesse said the prime driver for starting the cultural centre was to increase the awareness in India of Ethiopia as a tourist destination.

“Ethiopia is a major destination for tourists from other parts of the world, but Indian tourists have been very few.

“In this way, Indians will have an opportunity to know about our country, about the centuries-old contacts between our two ancient civilizations and about the excellent diplomatic, political and economic relations,” Tadesse added.

Ethiopia is home to a sizable Indian diaspora composed of traders and artisans settled there since the 19th century. Post-the 1950s, the presence of thousands of teachers from India in Ethiopia had helped build great goodwill for Indians in the African country.

The volume of India-Ethiopia bilateral trade is expected to touch $1 billion by 2015. The current balance of trade is in India’s favour.

India is the second largest foreign investor in Ethiopia with approved investments of $4.78 billion, while about 40 percent of Indian investment is in commercial agriculture.

Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, with over 91 million inhabitants, is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populated nation on the African continent. Dating to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia is one of the oldest locations of human existence known to scientists and is widely considered the region from where homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and beyond.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be contacted at [email protected])

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