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Several initiatives under bilateral and multilateral frameworks such as IORA, IBSA and BRICS were taken to further our objectives in this regard. The year saw first ever visit by COSC and CNS to Mozambique and 1st Joint Defence Committee meeting with Madagascar. JDCs and JWG on defence were also held with South Africa and Mozambique. Ship visits to South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Madagascar and visits by defence delegations took place in 2017. On the economic front, our trade with Africa multiplied and diversified. A Regional CII Exim Bank Conclave was held in Kampala. India became the 5th largest investor in Africa with cumulative investment estimated at US$ 54 billion. African countries overwhelmingly joined the Indo-French initiative International Solar Alliance (ISA). Over half of the countries that have joined ISA so far, are from Africa. The Electronic Tourist Visa (ETV) Facility was expanded to cover more than 25 countries from Africa. Air connectivity was enhanced with commencement of direct flights of Rwandair (April 2017) and increase in frequency of Ethiopian airlines. Cultural cooperation increased with many countries enthusiastically celebrating Festivals of India, International Yoga Day and Indian festivals. West Africa: India’s relations with countries of West Africa continued on an upward trajectory during 2017. The region (covering twenty five countries of west, north-west, central and south-west Africa) is home to Africa’s largest population and fastest growing economies with largest proven reserves of energy resources and minerals. The region is rich in all known minerals. India sources about 18 per cent of its crude oil requirements from this region. India imports over US$ 2 billion worth of gold from Ghana per annum. India also sources ninety per cent of raw cashew from countries in the region including Cote d’lvoire, Guinea Bissau and Senegal. Although the West African region continues to gain strategic importance for India and remains politically stable, it continues to have some hot spots including the Boko Haram insurgency affecting Nigeria and its neighbours (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin), northern Mali, eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), CAR (Central African Republic) and language crisis in Cameroon (two Anglophone regions asking for more rights and autonomy). There have, however, been better coordination and synergy of efforts amongst the countries of the region to deal with the terrorist menace. There are currently 5,000 plus Indian troops, military observers, and police personnel in the Democratic Republic of Congo under MONUSCO (UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo). As far as economic and commercial relations are concerned, India’s bilateral trade with the region currently stands at around US$ 22 billion. Capacity building, skill development and strengthening of physical and social infrastructure have remained at the centre of India’s expanding development partnership with the region. For 2017-18, around 1,450 civilian ITEC slots; over 200 defence slots (111 slots to Nigeria) and 300 Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarships were allocated to West African (WA) countries. Europe and European Union Central Europe: India continued with its policy of engaging with the countries of Central Europe to consolidate bilateral relations. On political issues, there was good understanding, both at bilateral and multilateral forums. The growing bilateral trade, business exchanges, educational exchanges and cultural events added to the growing ties with the region.