The India-Africa summit will be a perfect setting for business communities from India and African nations to explore areas of cooperation and provide a roadmap to their governments.
Economic and trade relations between India and Africa have been on the slow track despite several Indian companies having a presence in the continent. The current trade is estimated around $75 billion. Experts say there is potential for this to go past $100 billion. But Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is cautious not to cite a number. More than 165 Indian companies invested in Africa between January 2003 and July 2015 in telecom, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and elsewhere.
India official says deeper cooperation in agriculture and agro-processing, engineering, textiles, leather and pharmaceuticals would have a positive impact on food security, raise health standards and create jobs in Africa and India. Food processing is a key area identified by both sides. Tourism too holds promise.
“There is clear intention that we will participate in African manufacturing and they’ll do whatever they can do to Make in India,” says Rajan Bharti Mittal, vice chairman of Bharti Enterprises.
Several African countries have high growth and are keen to engage with India.
Others would want Indian expertise in various sectors to speed up economic expansion. “There’s been growing interest in many African countries to do more business with the East and that includes India and China… Africa is opening to everybody who wants to do business,” says Zimbabwe trade minister Mike Bimha.
But there are issues to be addressed for smoother trade ties. Connectivity, banking links and security issues must be resolved. Trade experts say India needs to reorient strategy to boost ties.
“For the Africa-India trade potential to be realised, India must adopt an investment-led approach. We should support our African partners in development projects and handhold them in executing these efficiently,” says Biswajit Dhar, professor at JNU.