India And Africa Committed To Strengthen Trade Ties

India-Africa partnership assumes critical importance for the global economy facing a slowdown; moderating trade and investment flows, growing trade protectionism and tightening financing conditions. The new dynamism of African economies has contributed to the continent emerging as one of the highly attractive global investment destination. India is committed to partner Africa in the areas prioritised by the African countries in the spirit of ‘Partners in Progress’. The three-day 14th Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnerships’ in New Delhi drew the participation of over 500 delegates from 41 African countries and the presence of three Heads of State and Government from Africa. It was attended by 33 ministers from different African countries.

Inaugurating the conclave, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry & Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said, “Africa would be the preferred destination for Indian investments.” He pointed out that while physical connectivity between the two regions is being strengthened, the opportunity to expand digital connectivity between India and Africa could obviate the need for widespread and capital-intense physical infrastructure connectivity.

India and Africa should take firm steps to enter into a free trade agreement or a preferential trade agreement, Commerce Minister Prabhu said. He added that India’s exports of services and merchandise would touch a record high in the current financial year ending March 31, reflecting its robust economic fundamentals. Even as India gears up to become a $ 5 trillion economy within the next few years and a $ 10 trillion economy thereafter, the country endeavour is to help Africa sustain its own economic growth momentum. Keeping in view Africa’s central location on the global map, India could help establish strong logistics linkages in the region. There are greater opportunities for deeper India-Africa bilateral co-operation and partnerships in agriculture and food processing, power projects, new and renewable energy development, skills development, among others. India assured that its’ industry will extend all support to African countries to process natural resources in Africa. Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President, Republic of Ghana, said that “Trade and investment, investment in human capital and digitalisation hold the key”. India’s expertise in ICT would be a great help for Ghana to achieve its goals.

Dr. Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, Prime Minister of Guinea, praised India for setting up 18 new embassies in Africa, including in Guinea. He cited India’s initiatives like ‘Pan Africa Network’ among others which have benefitted the continent in the past few years. Mr. Monyane Moleleki, Deputy Prime Minister, Kingdom of Lesotho, highlighted the need to have “win-win cooperation” in areas like agriculture, technology, energy and renewable energy sector. Mr. Anup Wadhawan, India’s Commerce Secretary, cited that the balance of trade is in favour of Africa. In 2017-18, India’s exports to Africa were valued at US$ 24 billion, whereas India’s imports from Africa were valued at US$ 38 billion.

The EXIM bank has served as an instrument of Government of India in taking forward India’s economic diplomacy outreach. Today, India-Africa trade stands at US$ 62 billion. India mainly exports pharmaceuticals, engineering and electronic products to Africa and imports natural resources and diamonds in more than 40 countries. India has also offered duty-free market access to Africa’s least developed countries. India has committed US$ 7.5 billion to Africa’s infrastructure development, covering 137 projects. Besides, EXIM Bank of India has extended concessional lines of credit for critical projects in Africa.

While Africa’s acute physical infrastructure financing deficit is estimated at about US$ 170 billion; it has created private investment opportunities in roads, highways, ports and airports, railroads, power generation, transmission and distribution, among other segments. The accelerated domestic economic growth has also increased demand for manufactured goods and services. Africa’s economic growth in 2018 will continue in 2019 in sub-Saharan Africa, averaging 3.6 per cent over the next two years, as per World Bank estimates.

Script: Yogesh Sood, Journalist