Ethiopian firms find India Inc ideal partner to do business

May 1st, 2009 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS  

By Groum Abate
Addis Ababa, May 1 (IANS) A little noticed story amid the economic gloom is how India’s ties are on a steady climb with Africa, a typical example being the way Ethiopian firms prefer to partner with India Inc that has emerged relatively unscathed from the current global financial crisis.

India had the largest presence at the annual Addis Chamber International Trade Fair organized by Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (AACCSA) that ended in the Ethiopian capital recently.

Around 24 Indian companies - which have emerged as the largest investors in this country after Sudan - took part in the fair, mainly in the areas of agriculture, mining and services.

Giving a vote of confidence to Indian companies, Eyesuswork Zafu, president of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association, pointed out that Indian companies were ideal partners for his country’s economic development.

“India’s economy is not only dependable on exports, it also has huge internal demand so that you can’t see many Indian companies suffering from the current crisis,” he said.

“Plus, most of the companies operate within the corporate social responsibility spirit that is this year’s trade fair motto,” Zafu told IANS.

In fact, trade volume is expected to rise by 20 percent by 2010 to $500 million from the current level of $442 million, even as the expansion in economic ties has been mainly due to increase in Indian exports.

The Indian government is therefore keen to enable policies, which will increase exports from this east African nation with whom India has historic political and diplomatic ties.

“Under the Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme, announced by India last year, we should create a new paradigm of cooperation. This will allow significant exports from Ethiopia to the growing Indian market,” said the Indian envoy to Ethiopia, Gurjit Singh.

Indian investment is also another way to improve the balance of trade, with Singh asserting that this was a viable way to develop the Ethiopian export economy to target third countries.

In fact, India is close on the heels of Sudan as the largest foreign investor, with 400 Indian companies investing around $4.15 billion.

India is also providing loans for Ethiopia in addition to the trade ties. In fact, the Asian giant’s largest ever loan to a foreign country was made to Ethiopia of $640 million for developing its sugar industry.

The Export-Import Bank of India facilitated the funding through a line of credit.

According to information available with the Indian embassy here, there were more than 9,000 families of Indian origin in Ethiopia at one point. They now number some 2,000 nationals, mainly businesspeople, teachers and professionals working for UN and other multilateral agencies.

The two countries have also had long-standing commercial relations that can be traced to over 2,000 years of recorded history. During the rein of Axumite Kingdom, Indian traders flocked to the ancient port of Adulis in eastern Ethiopia and traded silk and spices for gold and ivory.

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