ABUJA: Amid enhanced diplomatic reach to the African continent, India is set to deepen its multi-faceted economic partnership with West Africa, the emerging resource-rich region, at a high-profile business conclave organized in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
The two-day conclave (October 8-9) takes place against the backdrop of renewed Afro-optimism among India’s political leadership and industry about new opportunities generated by the unfolding African resurgence. The economic outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, as projected by the World Bank and IMF, is getting better, and within the continent West Africa has emerged a hub of economic dynamism and innovation. Home to some of the continent’s fastest growing economies, West Africa has a combined GDP of over half a trillion dollars and a population of around 370 million that makes it a high-growth region and market.
The conclave, organized by CII and EXIM Bank, seeks to map new economic synergies between India and West Africa and forge a doable action plan to enhance multi-faceted economic and development partnership between India and the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Indian government has thrown its full weight behind this important conclave by sending two ministers – – Minister for Commerce and Industry C.R. Chaudhary and Minister of External Affairs M. J. Akbar, to Abuja. The participation of two senior ministers from India at this conclave underscores the importance India attaches to deepening and diversifying its multifarious relations with the resurgent region. In addition to addressing the conclave, the two ministers are also expected to hold bilateral talks with their Nigerian counterparts.
Amid its ongoing economic recovery, Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, is upbeat about economic prospects of India-West Africa partnership. In his key note address, Nigeria’s Trade and Industry Minister Okechukwu Enelamah is expected to provide a broad overview of new vistas in India-West Africa partnership.
About 200 delegates from the 15 ECOWAS countries and 70 business representatives from India, including 20 CEOs of leading India companies, are expected to participate in the conclave.
Nigeria has been chosen to host the event because Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is currently the chair of ECOWAS and Nigeria hosts ECOWAS secretariat, said India’s high commissioner to Nigeria B.N. Reddy.
From Abuja to Abidjan and Dakar to Banjul, there is a visible surge of interest in these countries to expand and diversify trade and investment with the world’s sixth largest economy.
The conclave will help identify new opportunities for Indian investors in diverse sectors and give African business and governments in the region to highlight the comparative advantages they can bring to the table, said the CII and EXIM Bank in a background note for the conclave.
The conclave is structured into thematic sessions focused on major areas of India-West Africa economic partnership, including sustainable financing, infrastructure and green energy, agriculture & agro-processing and services (education, health and IT).
Promoting cross-region connectivity will figure prominently in discussions. With India and Japan partnering in the Africa Asia Growth Corridor, the two countries are also looking to explore new opportunities for joint projects in West Africa, which will be reflected in a special session on India-Japan collaboration.
Over the years, West African countries have been getting greater diplomatic attention and are also moving up the radar screen of Indian investors. The launch of TEAM-9 initiative in 2004 was a milestone in India’s economic and developmental cooperation with the region.
In recent years, many two-way high-level visits have taken place. The then President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Ghana and Cote D’ Ivoire and Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visit to Nigeria and Mali in 2016 underscored the growing importance of the region for India.
The opening of the EXIM Bank’s representative office in Abidjan in June 2016 has paved the way for acceleration of India’s economic and development cooperation with the West Africa region.
India’s total trade with West African countries has risen from US$ 17 billion in 2016-17 to US$ 21.6 billion in 2017-18. India’s exports to the region increased to US$ 6.4 billion in 2017-18 from US$ 5.3 billion in 2016-17. Similarly, India’s imports from West Africa increased from US$ 11.6 billion in 2016-17 to US$ 15.3 billion in 2017-18.
India is increasingly expanding its trade with energy-rich West African countries, namely Nigeria Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana, as a part of Government of India’s policy of diversifying its energy sources. West African region, with its huge reserves of oil, is crucial to India’s quest for energy security.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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