New Delhi: “India expects to triple trade with Africa over the next 5 years to reach $100 billion,” officials said, as it tries to strengthen ties in a region where Asian rival China has made rapid inroads.
Despite an economic slowdown, India is planning a slew of projects in agriculture, small industry, mining, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), oil pipelines, chemical industry, power generation and transmission among others.
“The government also plans to double credit lines to $5.4 billion over 5 years and provide $500 million for projects from the ‘Aid to Africa’ budget,” Pranab Mukherjee, India’s External Affairs minister said during a India-Africa business summit in New Delhi.
Business leaders and politicians from at least 32 African countries and India vowed this week to improve bilateral trade and relations, which date back to the British colonial period when thousands of Indians were taken to Africa as indentured labourers. Many stayed on, and there are now close to 2 million people of Indian ethnic origin living in Africa.
“We share an excellent relationship with Africa. The economic slowdown will not affect trade and we will withstand the financial crisis,” Anand Sharma, India’s junior foreign minister said on the sidelines of the India-Africa business summit.
India’s trade with Africa soared from $967 million in 1991 to $35 billion in 2008, but remains way behind China’s nearly $100 billion.
China trailed India in trade with Africa a decade ago, but its investments have since risen considerably on the back of major energy construction and mineral extraction projects.
Industry leaders are of the viewpoint that the recent meetings on the sidelines of this week’s summit could result in hard deals.
India will also donate $1 billion to connect 53 African countries through a satellite and fibre-optic network to promote ‘Virtual’ medical and educational programmes.
Officials said that Africa could benefit from India’s low cost business models.
“India can bring in its low cost expertise in the manufacturing sector and in Information technology, there is so much India can offer to Africa,” Maurice Kagimu Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of State for Economic Monitoring said.
Kiwanuka said that Uganda has a $100 million trade with India which could double in less than 5 years as Indian companies invest in sectors such as food processing and textiles.