Dar es Salaam: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is on a two-day visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania, on Friday paid tribute to the achievements of around 40,000 persons of Indian origin and Indian businessmen in Tanzania.

PM lauded their 'entrepreneurial spirit' and said they were 'a bridge of friendship' with this East African nation that an Indian prime minister was visiting after 14 years.

Manmohan Singh, whose links with Tanzania go back to his friendship with Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the father of the nation, addressed to nearly 300 persons of Indian origin, the cream of the Indian community in this nation of about 42 million people.

He came here after a trip to Ethiopia where he attended the 2nd Africa-India summit in Addis Ababa.

'Your achievements are a matter of pride for all Indians. I am confident that each one of you will serve as a bridge of friendship between India and Tanzania,' Manmohan Singh said, with much applause from Indo-Tanzanians who had gathered to hear him in the sea-facing Hotel Kempinski Kilimanjaro.

'Over the decades, the Indian community has earned a reputation for its entrepreneurial spirit, its perseverance and hard work, and for making remarkable contributions to the development of this country in areas like agriculture, education and health,' he said. 

'I would urge you to be good Tanzanian citizens and continue to spread the high values which India is known for,' the prime minister said. He lauded them for creating a new 'image of India' on the move with their accomplishments in varied fields.   

For the Indian community, it was a signal occasion as the last they saw an Indian prime minister in their midst was in 1997 when then prime minister I.K. Gujral visited this country, which serves as a gateway to East Africa.

Marking a high moment in their life in their adopted homeland, Indians, who came here first as adventurous sea-faring traders in the 19th century, have now carved a place for themselves in just about every sphere, including business and managerial professions.

Their foray into politics in the October 2010 elections was a milestone of sorts when six MPs of Indian origin were elected for the first time. Manmohan Singh made it a point to specially acknowledge them in his speech: 'Their participation in the political institutions of this country is a reflection of the trust and confidence they enjoy among the electorate,' he said.  

'I congratulate them on their achievements and wish them all success in the service of the people of this country.'

There was visible excitement among Indo-Tanzanians, who straddle two distinct but kindred cultures effortlessly. 'We are really excited about the prime minister's visit. Indians here are doing well in every field,' said Disha Patel, a young businesswoman whose family has a pie in diverse businesses, including farming. 

Gagan Gupta, an Aurangabad-based businessman and managing director of Kamal Steels, was upbeat about the prospects of the Export Processing Zone he has set up in Bagomoyo, a couple of hours drive from here. 'The potential is huge. More Indian companies should come and invest here,' he told IANS.

Tanzania is home to 40,000 PIOs who are concentrated in major regional cities, including Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Zanzibar, Mwanja, Morogoro, Dodoma and Mbeya. Most of them are from Kutch and Kathiawad in Gujarat. Between them, they own and control nearly 75 percent of Tanzania's trade.  

In the last few years, many expatriates, who number around 10,000, have come here as managers and executives, who are employed with a host of Indian companies like Tata, GAPCO (Reliance), Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bajaja and Airtel, who have set up their base in this country.

Agencies