India to help African countries with national savings schemes

India to help African countries with national savings schemes

New Delhi: India will assist African countries in rolling out national savings schemes, attempting to improve economic and diplomatic relations to catch up with the rapid inroads made by China in the continent.

National savings schemes are run by governments to encourage people to save more and also mobilize resources for spending on social welfare and infrastructure development.

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The savings generated by such schemes carry sovereign guarantees and tax concessions.

“The scheme will be rolled out on a pilot basis and is being done by MEA (ministry of external affairs) in consultation with India’s finance ministry. The NSS capacity building is a part of the grant of $500 million (Rs2,285 crore) that has been promised to Africa," said a senior Indian government official who did not want to be identified.

The countries where India will participate in the roll out of the schemes haven’t been finalized yet, the official said.

At the India-Africa Forum summit held in India in 2008, the government announced credit lines of about $5.4 billion by 2012 to African countries. It has so far extended $1 billion in lines of credit and will give an additional $500 million to these nations.

“We are working with the African countries to roll out NSS," Harish Rawat, minister of state for labour and employment, confirmed.

India has in recent years scrambled to put together a cohesive economic and diplomatic policy for Africa, where it has lost ground to China.

India has traditionally had strong ties with most African countries, stemming from its support for their independence movements.

While India’s trade with Africa is worth around $39 billion, China’s trade with Africa is to the tune of $100 billion. China has also stolen a march over India in securing African energy resources.

MEA is playing its part in India’s energy security programme by promoting efforts to enhance diplomatic ties. Vice-president Hamid Ansari recently concluded a visit to Zambia, Malawi and Botswana and minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor has reached Mozambique.

A delegation headed by commerce minister Anand Sharma is leaving for Nigeria on 14 January after which petroleum minister Murli Deora will also be visiting Nigeria.