African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers immense potential for Indian companies to invest in Africa: MEA Secretary

New Delhi: Mr Rahul Chhabra, Secretary-Economic Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India yesterday said that the CFTA signals a great opportunity for Indian businesses for partnering with African counterparts to deepen their integration and accelerate their development.

Addressing the Inaugural programme of Namaskar Africa organized by FICCI, he said that Indian companies must take advantage of the enormous change that is taking place in Africa.

“We do not have a donor-recipient relationship with Africa but consider our partner countries as development partners,” he said. “Out of 54 African countries we have Indian projects operating in 48 African countries with 75 projects worth USD 13 billion. “This is the size of our commitment to the African Continent”, said the Secretary.

He further stated that many of the iconic projects in Africa, like the Parliament in the Gambia, the Presidential Palace of Ghana, are constructed by Indian companies. “One-third of the power supply in Sudan and one-fourth of the power supply in Uganda comes from Indian power plant set up by Indian lines of credit,” said Mr Chhabra.

Elaborating on strengthening the manufacturing capabilities in Africa he said that the first cement plant in Djibouti, the first milk processing plant in Mauritania and the first sugar plant in Ghana are the first steps towards developing a stronger partnership in the manufacturing sector by plants set up by Indian lines of credit.

“We want to be forward-looking and forward-thinking to see how the partner countries can benefit from our collaborations,” said the MEA Secretary.

He stressed the fact that India has provided medical assistance to over 25 African countries during the pandemic with the Vande Bharat flights carrying African patients to India even during the lockdown. “Five air transport bubble arrangements are already in operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to maintain air connectivity so that that activities keep continuing,” he said.

“Our Vaccine supplies have gone out to maximum African countries and many more are committed,” he said. He said that India is working with the partners and the supply of vaccine to other African countries will be rolled out shortly. “We have kept our resources open and waiting for approval from partner countries for a seamless movement of vaccine supplies,” he further added.

Ms Debashree Mukherjee, Additional Secretary, Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Govt of India & Chairperson, WAPCOS Ltd & NPCC Ltd said Namaste Africa focuses on promoting economic cooperation with different regions of Africa. This event, she said, focuses on sectors of priority that are of mutual interest like water, sanitation, IT, Pharma, healthcare, and these are all areas where Indian companies have strong expertise and experience. Besides investment, Ms Mukherjee said, trade, technology transfers, skill development and capacity building in sectors of mutual interest are the focus of Namaskar Africa.

Dr Srikar Reddy, Joint Secretary, FT-AFRICA, Department of Commerce, Govt of India said, Africa looks at India as an opportunity for trade and investment, collaborations in new emerging technologies, especially in ICT, Consultancy, fin-tech, logistics, edutech, health tech, and others. He also mentioned that the recovery of the global economy will largely depend on the effectiveness of vaccination efforts. Dr Reddy stated that India and Africa are connected by a historical association that has blossomed into a multifaced partnership with an emphasis on economic cooperation and human resource development. He further added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made Africa a priority for India’s foreign and economic policy.

HE Dr Daniel Peter Othol, The Dean of the African Group of Heads of Missions in India & Ambassador of South Sudan said the relationship between India and Africa must be augmented to the level that will benefit Africa. He further said that the African economy has melted due to the pandemic and Africa is looking at the Indian subcontinent for assistance. “We want India to mechanize the African agriculture, to build our social and physical infrastructure and the health and educational needs especially during the era of COVID-19. He further stated that there is an urgent need to boost the immunity of the population of Africa, therefore Africa is looking at India for vaccines,” he said.

Mr Anupam Mishra, Chair, FICCI Africa Council & Director WAPCOS said that India’s partnership with AFRICA is based on the model of cooperation and that FICCI is working out ways and means to enhance the relationship between the two countries. “The new programs and measure being adopted in African economies will foster a greater relationship between India and Africa and we want to position brand India as a partner for Africa,” he said.

Mr Rajiv Wahi, Co-Chair, FICCI Africa Council & Chief Executive, International Business, Escorts Agri Machinery, Escorts Ltd said that Namaskar Africa is an important platform to promote the India-Africa trade and economic relations and FICCI will continue working on this partnership.

Mr Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General FICCI welcomed the dignitaries and lauded the unique FICCI initiative in bringing the Indian and African continent together for fostering economic partnership.