Malawi seeks Indian help in ‘greenbelt initiative’

November 10th, 2010 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Lakshmi Krishnakumar
New Delhi, Nov 10 (IANS) Inspired by India’s “Green Revolution”, Malawi has sought Indian assistance in its “Greenbelt initiative” aimed at raising agricultural output. The southeast African nation is looking to India to tap its huge uranium deposits.

Malawi is also negotiating to sign Double Taxation as well as Investment Promotion and Protection agreements with India.

“Our main aim is to get India’s participation in our Greenbelt initiative to increase our farming capacity,” visiting Malawian Trade and Industry Minister Eunice Kazembe told IANS in an interview.

Malawi, a country of 14 million people, one of the world’s most densely populated nations, is mainly dependent on rain-fed agriculture but the recent climatic changes has affected its production. The “Greenbelt initiative” has been brought about by the Malawian government to counter climatic unpredictabilities.

“Our president decided to change Malawi into an irrigated agriculture and therefore we came to India bearing in mind that India underwent a green revolution years ago and that you have built and managed huge irrigation facilities, technologies, tools etc so we like to tap from this knowledge and skill base,” Kazembe said.

Describing the Greenbelt initiative as a multi-faceted project and inviting Indian investors in it, she said: “I am very sure that a month from now there will be investments in many areas and not just in agriculture like irrigation, farming technologies, but in transportation, logistics, agro-processing units, tourism etc.”

India and US joint projects discussed during US President Obama’s visit also sees great agricultural opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Addressing the media Monday after his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama said India and US will launch new initiatives that will mutually benefit both the countries through joint projects in regions like Africa.

“Building on Indian and American agriculture collaboration, like that of the Green Revolution, we are launching a new partnership for an Evergreen Revolution that improves food security around the world,” he said Monday addressing the media.

Also speaking at the venue, Prime Minister Singh said: “We have agreed to broaden our strategic dialogues to cover other regions and areas and initiate joint projects in Africa and Afghanistan.”

Kazembe said Malawi is currently discussing Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and Double Taxation Agreement with India and that “these are two instruments that are crucial to investors for investment in Malawi”.

Kazembe was here as part of the Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s delegation on a five-day trip which left for home Nov 6. The delegation invited the Indian business community to invest in sectors like energy, health and education apart from its Greenbelt initiative.

Kazembe said: “We are here to solicit investment from India to Malawi bearing in mind that India now is one of the most significant economic power in the world.”

Kazembe said Malawi has discovered huge deposits of uranium and wants to work with India to explore more uranium sites.

She said: “We are still negotiating uranium exploration with India. These things tend to have a significant lead time because we are talking about minerals so there are many areas that has to be looked into.”

Kazembe also said that India and Malawi will exceed the two-way trade target of $300 million within three years. India-Malawi bilateral trade at present is $185 million.

“We are absolutely sure that we’ll exceed the target for a number of reasons like Malawi has exported for many years to India different types of grains. I am pleased to note that India has invited us to clinch a long term contract with its government agency.

“On the Indian side we buy equipment for SME. There was an announcement of an SME incubator by India. So in two years we will be talking about a lot more than $300 million,” she said.

On a lighter note Kazembe said she enjoyed her stay in India particularly Indian President Pratibha Patil’s banquet to the visiting delegation.

“I congratulate India for having a female president. It is very refreshing. There aren’t many female presidents in the world so to be one among the few it is very refreshing.

“The dinner was sumptuous and the ambience of the place was so very nice, flowers, decor, all so good. We enjoyed ourselves,” she said.

(Lakshmi Krishnakumar can be contacted at lakshmi.k@ians.in)

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