India sets $70bn bilateral trade-target with Africa

March 23rd, 2009 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Undeterred by the current global financial downturn, India Monday said it will invest $500 million in key projects in Africa and called for the doubling of bilateral trade between the two sides to $70 billion by 2014.
“Given the concrete opportunities that exist between the two sides, India-Africa trade could easily be doubled to $70 billion over the next five years,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a conclave on enhancing business ties between India and Africa.

Bilateral trade between India and Africa reached around $36 billion in 2007-2008, a 12-fold increase from $3 billion seven years ago.

Mukherjee also announced India’s intention to set up projects in Africa on grant basis in critical areas ranging from higher and vocational education, science, IT, agriculture and renewable energy. A sum of $500 million has already been allocated for this, he said.

Around 450 Africans, including businessmen, ministers and officials and 300 Indians are participating in the three-day India-Africa Project Conclave, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and EXIM Bank.

Although India’s economic engagement with Africa is growing every year, it lags behind China’s. China’s bilateral trade with Africa reached a staggering $106 billion last year.

Placing the burgeoning India-Africa relations in perspective, Mukherjee asserted that India will not allow the current global financial crisis to impinge on its commitments towards the resource-rich continent.

“The current global economic downturn have impacted us all. However, it is our firm intention to continue to fulfil the commitments we announced towards Africa at the India-Africa Forum summit last year,” he said. India announced duty free tariff preference scheme for 49 Least Developed Countries, including 33 African countries at the first India-Africa summit in April last year.

Leaders and representatives from 14 African countries participated in the summit.

Describing India and Africa as “strong and dependable partners,” Mukherjee said the two sides are cooperating to confront a slew of global challenges ranging from combating international terrorism and eradicating hunger and poverty to global warming and reforms of international institutions.

Alluding to India’s multi-faceted assistance to human empowerment in the continent, Mukherjee said the external affairs ministry has designed special courses in the field of mining and renewable energy resources. The government has increased the number of training slots for African countries under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme from 1,100 to 1,600.

“In the post-colonial era, India and African countries have been together since their birth as independent nations. Our destinies and future remain closely intertwined,” he said.

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