India upbeat about business with Africa, plans big push

March 13th, 2008 - 10:03 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) With China rapidly expanding its presence in Africa, Indian business too is gearing up for a major push in the continent with its win-win formula of low-cost technologies and mutual empowerment at a conclave here next week that is expected to discuss projects worth $10 billion. The three-day India-Africa Project Partnership conclave, that begins March 19, will witness the largest-ever interface between Indian and African business people and will be attended by 525 delegates from 33 African countries, including 37 ministers.

Tanzania’s vice-president Ali Mohamed Shein will be the chief guest at the conclave, organized jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the EXIM Bank and the commerce and external affairs ministries.

The fourth conclave, held ahead of India’s first summit with 14 African countries in April, will discuss 131 projects worth $10 billion and will focus on four main areas: technology, agriculture, human resources and energy.

“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 compared to China.

“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, while stressing on success stories of Africa’s emerging economies like Ethiopia.

“It’s time for greater 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.

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 face the same challenges of empowerment and infrastructure development. India has low-cost solutions to developmental problems which are more suited to African conditions,” Tarun Das, chief mentor of the CII said.

“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.

“Africa”, he stressed, “is the Continent of Light - that’s where the sun will shine tomorrow.”

Africa’s economic resurgence, with many of its oil-rich economies notching up double-digit growth, has spurred Indian businessmen to take a fresh look at burgeoning business opportunities in the continent.

Uganda’s High Commissioner to India Nimisha Madhvani underlined investment-friendly environment in Africa and asked the media not to fall prey to 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 and famous for its pumps and gensets, said his company is focusing on power, irrigation and water supply that will also help African countries to achieve Millennium Development Goals.

“Africa is the success story waiting to happen and one which will soon happen.”

Likewise, Syamal Gupta, head of the CII Africa Committee and chairman of Tata International, which has business interests in at least 18 African countries, spoke about his company’s plan to expand in areas like hotels, mining telecom, IT and infrastructure.

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