India-Africa trade summit postponed due to Ebola outbreak

By Reuters

Sep 24, 2014 07:24 AM EDT

An event aimed at promoting trade and investment between India and Africa has been postponed due to concerns over the deadly Ebola outbreak, India's foreign affairs ministry said on Wednesday.

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed more than 2,800 people in West Africa. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that between 550,000 and 1.4 million might be infected in the region by January.

The India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) was due to take place on the outskirts of New Delhi on Dec. 4, and would have seen more than 1,000 delegates - including heads of state, businessmen and journalists - from all 54 nations of the African Union.

"In consultation with the African countries, we decided to postpone the event because of the large numbers of delegates expected to attend," Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the ministry for external affairs, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Due to the public health guidelines issued because of the Ebola virus, there would have been logistical difficulties in dealing with the large number of delegates attending," he said, adding that the summit would be rescheduled for 2015.

Trade between India and Africa has increased by almost 36 percent to reach $70 billion in 2012/13, from $50 billion in 2010/11, according to the ministry of commerce and industry.

Under the framework of the IAFS, India has also provided assistance in areas such as food and energy security through sharing of expertise, as well as setting up training institutions in several African nations.

Two such summits were held in 2008 and 2011, but the spokesman said this event was expected to the biggest and included a business conclave and media event.

World Health Organization officials say the risk of Ebola being imported into India is low, but India has been proactive in preparing for an outbreak.

The government has set up facilities at airports and ports to manage travellers showing symptoms of the disease, such as fever or intense weakness. Authorities are following up on and keeping track of such passengers for up to four weeks.

According to the latest bulletin from India's health ministry issued on Sept. 9, 1,033 passengers were being tracked, while 16,812 passengers had been screened so far.

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