India to triple trade with Africa
India expects to triple trade with Africa over the next five years to reach $100-billion, officials said on Wednesday, as it tries to strengthen ties in a region where Asian rival China has made rapid inroads.
Despite an economic slowdown, India is planning a slew of projects in agriculture, small industry, mining, information and communication technology, oil pipelines, chemical industry, power generation and transmission, among others.
The government also plans to double credit lines to $5,4-billion over five years and provide $500-million for projects from the “Aid to Africa” budget, Pranab Mukherjee, India’s External Affairs Minister said during a India-Africa business summit in New Delhi.
Business leaders and politicians from at least 32 African countries and India vowed this week to improve bilateral trade and relations, which date back to the British colonial period when thousands of Indians were taken to Africa as indentured labourers. Many stayed on, and there are now close to two million people of Indian ethnic origin living in Africa.
“We share an excellent relationship with Africa. The economic slowdown will not affect trade and we will withstand the financial crisis,” Anand Sharma, India’s Junior Foreign Minister, told Reuters on the sidelines of the India-Africa business summit.
India’s trade with Africa soared from $967-million in 1991 to $35-billion in 2008, but remains way behind China’s almost $100-billion.
China trailed India in trade with Africa a decade ago, but its investments have since risen considerably on the back of major energy construction and mineral extraction projects.
India has held hundreds of meetings on the sidelines of this week’s summit that could result in hard deals, industry leaders said.
India will also donate $1-billion to connect 53 African countries through a satellite and fibre-optic network to promote “virtual” medical and educational programmes.
Officials said Africa could benefit from India’s low-cost business models.
“India can bring in its low-cost expertise in the manufacturing sector and in information technology ...
there is so much India can offer to Africa,” Maurice Kagimu Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of State for Economic Monitoring, told Reuters.
Uganda has a $100-million trade with India and Kiwanuka said that could double in less than five years as Indian companies invest in sectors such as food processing and textiles. - Reuters