India-Africa partnership gets a boost with investment conclave

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Several African leaders were in New Delhi for a key investment meeting this summer that brought together 40 ministers from 17 countries including Burkina Faso, Congo, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon and Malawi, among others.

The event aimed at boosting trade relations provided an opportunity for policy makers, bureaucrats and captains of business and industry to deepen ties.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that India was one of the major countries that have invested in the African continent.

“With cumulative investments of €73.2 billion between 1996 and 2021, India is among the top five investors in Africa,” Jaishankar said while speaking at the 17th CII-EXIM Banking Conclave on the India Growth Association -Africa.

Jaishankar noted that India’s bilateral trade with Africa had reached €88.7 billion in 2021-22 compared to €57 billion in the previous year and that more than 33 of the least developed nations of ‘Africa are entitled to benefits under the duty-free tariff preferences regime.

Commercial links

India’s main exports to Africa are refined petroleum products and pharmaceuticals, while Africa mainly exports crude oil, gold, coal and other minerals.

The conclave has become one of the largest cross-sector gatherings of high-level ministers, policy makers and business leaders from Africa and India and played a pivotal role in encouraging Indian companies to set up and grow its footprint in Africa.

“The resilience of the Indian and African economies and the many new emerging sectors driven by digital technologies and the green economy create a new set of opportunities that businesses on both sides must take full advantage of,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry.

The visits of high-level dignitaries have been consolidating Indo-African ties. So far, India has completed 197 projects, while 65 projects are under implementation and 81 are in pre-implementation stage.

Over the years, India has funded projects and enjoyed a significant symbolic presence in Africa.

“To name a few examples, in Gambia, India has not only built the National Assembly building, but has undertaken projects related to water supply, agriculture and food processing” , said Rajan Hershe, former vice-chancellor of Allahabad University.

“He is also building the presidential palace in Ghana, the first milk factory in Djibouti and power projects in Sudan and Rwanda.”

Historical ties

Over the past decade, Beijing has pumped billions of dollars into Africa, building roads, bridges and power facilities in exchange for access to markets and resources.

Unlike China, which has concentrated on building infrastructure and extracting natural resources, India, through its investments, has focused on its core competencies of resource development people, information technology, maritime security, education and health care.

“The construction and financing of Indian projects in Africa is aimed at facilitating local participation and development. Indian companies rely more on African talent and build the capacity of the local population,” a senior Nigerian diplomat told RFI.

“The diaspora also has its own role as a bridge between India and Africa.”

Africa is home to about 3 million people of Indian origin, with more than 1 million of them in South Africa. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda also have large numbers of diaspora Indians.

India never gets tired of proclaiming its historical ties with Africa. India’s national hero and father of independence, Mahatma Gandhi, even lived in South Africa for a few years in the late 19th century.

Like many African countries, especially in East Africa, India suffered under British colonialism.

India constitutes one of the largest contingents of UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and also hopes for Africa’s support in its efforts to secure a permanent seat on the Security Council.

As the world focuses on Africa’s fast-growing economies, the continent is poised for massive development across all sectors as numerous investors push to participate in the continent’s prospects.

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