A major India-Africa conclave

Source: By Neha Banka: The Indian Express

High-level diplomats from several African nations are currently in New Delhi for a key two-day investment meet that was scheduled to be inaugurated by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on 19 July 2022. External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Trade Minister Piyush Goyal were scheduled to attend the summit.

The summit

Forty high-level ministers from 17 countries, including Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Eswatini, Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Niger, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan, Namibia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, are participating in the two-day summit.

The CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Growth Partnership was launched in 2005 with the support of India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Commerce & Industry to encourage the development of private investment from India in African countries.

This is the 17th edition of the conclave. Over the years, it has “emerged as one of the largest congregations of senior ministers, policy makers and business leaders from Africa and India, cutting across sectors”, and “played a pivotal role in encouraging Indian companies to establish and grow their footprint in Africa”, according to the conclave website.

This year’s conclave focuses on infrastructure development and trade finance, education and training, agriculture and food processing, consultancy services, and healthcare in addition to other areas where Indian companies have steadily increased their presence over the years in Africa.

The significance

Trade between the African subcontinent and India increased from $7.2 billion in 2001 to $59.9 billion in 2017, making India the continent’s fourth-largest national trading partner, according to Exim Bank and the African Export-Import Bank (Afriexim Bank). Trade with India accounted for more than 6.4 per cent of total African trade in 2017.

Data from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry show bilateral trade between India and the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa was valued at $46.82 billion in 2020-21, down from $55.70 billion in 2019-20. India has a negative trade balance with sub-Saharan Africa, the Ministry figures show.

In a statement issued on Africa Day on 25 May, the Ministry of External Affairs said that 38 African nations have benefited from India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) scheme which provides duty free access to 98.2 per cent of India’s total tariff lines.

Lines of Credit (LoCs) worth $12.26 billion have so far been extended to African countries, making them the second-largest recipient of India’s concessional loans, the MEA said.

Gurjit Singh, former Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia and former Representative of India to the African Union, and author of ‘The Harambee Factor: India-Africa Economic And Development Partnership’, said the conclave, besides helping take India’s private sector into African nations, “brings together African ministers with their Indian counterparts in informal meetings instead of ministerial meetings”.

Key countries

Some sessions at the conference are country-specific, focusing on individual countries, for instance, Mauritius, Namibia and Gabon. Mauritius, especially, has emerged as a financial hub and a gateway to the African continent for India, Amb. Singh said.

Mauritius is the first and only African country so far to have a CECPA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement) with India, an agreement that aims at building trade ties between the two countries.

Political stability and rapid economic recovery post Covid-19 have made resource-rich Namibia in southern Africa attractive for foreign investment, the conclave’s website says. The country has rich deposits of uranium, diamonds, copper, phosphates and other minerals.

At a trade summit last year, the country’s high commissioner to India, Gabriel P Sinimbo, had indicated the country was exploring the possibility of exporting diamonds and semi-precious stones directly to India rather than through other countries.

Over the years, Indian enterprises have invested in energy, healthcare, and agriculture sectors, as well as the business of diamond cutting and polishing, in Namibia. Analysts expect these sectors to grow over the next few years.