India-Africa partnership gets boost with investment conclave

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A number of 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.

Aimed at strengthening trade relations, the event provided an opportunity for politicians, bureaucrats and business and industry leaders to deepen ties.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that India is among the leading countries that have invested in the African continent.

“With a cumulative investment of €73.2 billion from 1996-2021, India is among the top five investors in Africa,” Jaishankar said while addressing the 17th CII-EXIM Banking Conclave on the India-India Growth Partnership Africa.

Jaishankar pointed out that India’s bilateral trade with Africa reached €88.7 billion in 2021-22 compared to €57 billion the previous year and that over 33 of Africa’s least developed nations were eligible to receive benefits under the scheme for duty-free tariff preferences.

Trade 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 congregations of senior ministers, politicians and business leaders from Africa and India, spanning various sectors, and has played a key role in encouraging Indian companies to establish and expand their footprint in Africa.

“The resilience of the Indian and African economies and the many emerging sectors driven by digital technology and the green economy create a new set of opportunities that businesses in both countries need to make the most of,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Visits by dignitaries strengthen 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.

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

“Also building the presidential palace in Ghana, the first milk factory in Djibouti and energy projects in Sudan and Rwanda.”

Historical connections

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

Unlike China, which has focused on creating infrastructure and extracting natural resources, India through its investments has focused on its core competencies of human resource development, information technology, maritime security, education and healthcare.

“Building and financing Indian projects in Africa is aimed at facilitating local participation and development. Indian companies rely more on African talent and do local capacity building,” a senior Nigerian diplomat told RFI.

“The diaspora also acts as a bridge between India and Africa.”

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

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

Like many African countries – especially in East Africa – India suffered from British colonialism.

India constitutes one of the largest contingents of UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and is also hoping for Africa’s support in its efforts to get 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 multiple investors lobby for a stake in the continent’s prospects.

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