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Africa urged to tap into Indian market

By | March 20th 2012

By Macharia Kamau

African countries have been urged to tap into the Indian market of about 1.2 billion people, by increasing exports to the country and seeking more investment opportunities if they are to correct the balance of trade heavily skewed in favour of the Asian sub-continent.

Indian Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles Anand Sharma said his country offered a huge market for African products, adding that African firms ought to replicate the speed and interest with which Indian firms have expanded across Africa.

"As Indian firms look for opportunities in Africa, the African chambers of commerce should look for opportunities in India and there are mechanisms to assist you," said Sharma at Afro-India conference in New Delhi.

Bilateral trade

Bilateral trade between India and Africa stood at $53 billion (Sh4.3 trillion) during 2010/2011. Exports to India from Africa amounted to $32.2 billion (Sh2.62 trillion) while the imports stood at $21.1 billion (Sh1.72 trillion).

Kenya imported Indian products worth $2.2 billion (Sh180 billion) but exports were below $500 million (Sh40 billion) during 2010/2011.

Kenya is the largest importer of Indian products in Africa after South Africa that imported products worth $19.8 billion from India last year.

Sharma observed that the Eurozone debt crises, offered opportunities for India and Africa to emerge as likely key drivers in the recovery of the global economy if the two countries deepen cooperation in trade.

Foreign investments

"As the global economy faces stiff headwinds resulting in contraction of markets and dip in trade and investment flows, deeper economic cooperation between India and Africa will provide growth impetus to both regions,"

"We will have to act together. In doing so, we will emerge as engines of global economic recovery."

Sharma also announced that India would fast track the establishment of specialised capacity building institutions across Africa.

Zimbabwean Vice-president Joice Mujuru said Africa should consider alternative sources of foreign direct investments, given the tumultuous times that the European economy has been facing.

European investors have been major investors to many African countries.

"African and India have had excellent political relations and Africa should identify opportunities that would translate this political good will into trade," she said, adding that Africa should move with time and pursue other investors into the continent rather than relying on the traditional sources of investment.

Indo-Africa relations

India and the African Union are planning to set up about 100 institutions across the continent for training in different fields including food processing, textile manufacturing, weather forecasting and earth sciences.

Plans are also in the pipeline for an Indo-Africa university to be based in Addis Ababa or Nairobi.

The conference organised Indian Industries and the Exim Bank of India, drew 600 delegates from Africa.

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