India ready for big business push in Africa

March 13th, 2008 - 6:07 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) Undeterred by China’s growing presence in Africa, Indian business is planning a major push in the continent with its win-win formula of low-cost technologies and mutual empowerment at a conclave next week that will be attended by the largest-ever business delegations from 33 African countries. Africa’s economic resurgence, with many of its oil-rich economies notching up double-digit growth spurred by stability and vigorous reforms, has spurred Indian businessmen to take a fresh look at burgeoning business opportunities in the continent.

Although India’s bilateral trade with Africa is a little over $20 billion, half of that of China’s with Africa, Indian business people are upbeat about expanding their operations in the resource-rich continent.

“We have so much in common, historically and culturally. We face the same challenges of empowerment and infrastructure development. Above all, India has low-cost solutions to developmental problems which are more suited to African conditions,” Tarun Das, chief mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said at a curtain-raiser press conference held to announce the conclave.

“Our strategies are different. China’s economy is much larger than India’s. It’s logical and rational that their trade with Africa is bigger than us,” Das said when asked about China’s rapid expansion of trade and investment with Africa.

In the same breath, he added that unlike China, which is totally focused on natural resources and energy in Africa, India’s approach is that of empowerment and capacity building through human resource development and affordable technologies.

“There is room for everybody. Africa is a huge continent. It’s not late for India. It helps when there is competition,” Ethiopia’s Ambassador to India Gennet Zewide said when asked whether India is a late entrant on the African business scene.

The three-day India-Africa Project Partnership conclave, organized jointly by the commerce and external affairs ministries, the EXIM Bak and the CII, begins March 19. Tanzania’s vice-president Ali Mohamed Shein will be the chief guest at the conclave.

The conclave, held ahead of India’s first summit with 14 African countries in April, will witness the largest-ever interface between Indian and African businessmen and will be attended by 525 delegates from 33 African countries, including 37 ministers.

Stressing on Africa’s emerging economies, the Ethiopian envoy underlined the unique place of India and Indian products in African eyes. “It’s an opportune time for Indian business to come to Africa in large numbers. India is today a giant economy and it has triple A’s - affordable, adaptable and appropriate technologies,” she said.

“It’s time for involvement of Indian entrepreneurship and money in Africa. It should be a win-win arrangement,” said J. Bentum-Williams, Ghana’s high commissioner to India.

Uganda’s High Commissioner to India Nimisha Madhvani underlined investment-friendly environment in Africa and asked the media not to succumb to the temptation of negative information and stereotypes. “Africa is mostly portrayed in a negative light. There is the old myth that the West is the best. Africa is a safe investment destination,” she said.

Madhvani also repudiated reports in a section of the media that Indians were targeted in African countries like Kenya and Uganda. “Asians are back in business in Uganda. It’s absolutely inaccurate to say that they were being targeted,” she said.

Sanjay Kirloskar, chairman and managing director of Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, a company with diverse business interests in Africa dating back to the 1930s, is upbeat about a new business synergy between India and Africa.

Speaking about Kirloskar pumps and gensets, which have become iconic brand in African countries, Kirloskar said his company was focusing on power, irrigation and water supply not just for business but to help African countries achieve Millennium Development Goals.

Likewise, Shyamal Gupta of the Tata Group, which has business interests in at least 18 African countries, spoke about his company’s plan to expand in areas like hotels, telecom, IT and infrastructure.

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