Addis Ababa: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a dozen African leaders, gathered in the Ethiopian capital, discussed on Tuesday how to boost trade between the two regions and their two billion inhabitants.
“Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world in the 21st century. We will work with Africa to enable it to realise this potential,” Singh told the opening ceremony.
“I’m happy to announce that India will continue to support efforts at infrastructure development, regional integration and capacity building and human ressources development in Africa,” the Prime Minister said.
The Addis Ababa summit is the second such gathering as the south Asian powerhouse seeks to widen its footpring in Africa where its competitor China has made major inroads in recent years.
Since the first India-Africa summit in New Delhi in 2008, trade between the two partners has increased. Last year, India’s imports from Africa were worth $20.7 billion, compared with $18.7 billion the previous year, and its exports stood at $10.3 billion the same year.
India’s foray in Africa is mainly in the private sector, such as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, unlike China which concentrates on government to government deals, extractive industries and infrastructure development.
The two-day summit is to end in the signing of two major trade and cooperation deals.
Despite being home to the bulk of the world’s poorest countries, Africa is endowed with minerals, oil and other natural resources.
“Africa offers a great market for India’s entrepreneurs,” Pritam Banerjee, trade and international policy chief at the Confederation of Indian Industry, a leading trade body, said ahead of the summit.
“India will emerge as a major supplier to Africa in engineering, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, automotives, farm equipment and a host of other sectors.”
The 2008 India-Africa summit saw India give preferential market access to exports from all the Least Developed Countries, many of them in Africa, as well as increase credit lines to Africa.
India also aims to bolster its diplomatic and security presence in Africa.
In 2008, its navy joined the anti-piracy patrols in the key shipping routes of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean where rampaging Somali pirates continue to hijack merchant vessels.
Both regions also back each other for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council under envisaged reforms of the world body.
On leaving the Addis Ababa summit Singh will make an official visit to Tanzania where he is expected to sign bilateral cooperation deals.
India is one of Tanzania’s main trading partners and has investments worth $1.3 billion (€915 million) in the east African state alone.