India can benefit from African Continental trade pact: MEA

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 28

Underscoring India’s commitment towards growth in relations with Africa, New Delhi on Friday said the country’s businesses could benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that was gathering pace.

Characterising the proposed pact as a “game changer”, Rahul Chhabra, Secretary, Economic Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, said more and more African countries were joining the agreement and a huge opportunity could come in a few months. Till date, 30 of the 54 countries have ratified the agreement.

“Making Africa resilient for Indian business should be followed up by making Indian business resilient for Africa,” Chhabra said while addressing a FICCI webinar attended by members of the Indian and African Diplomatic Corps.

Stating that India is a natural fit to engage in business in a challenging environment and diversity in Africa, Chhabra said 10 guiding principles outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Uganda in 2018 remained a priority.

In the past few years, India’s focus on Africa led to an unprecedented 34 high-level visits, including those by the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister.

The Secretary also said India welcomed all countries in the continent to join the satellite pan-Africa e-VidyaBharti and e-Aarogya projects. For instance, he said, 14,000 students enrolled in educational scheme in Ghana within weeks of e-VidyaBharti starting.

Chhabra further said India had opened nine of the 18 new missions it planned to have in Africa and suggested to the business community to reach out to the Embassy/High Commission with specific issues.

During a review meeting with the African Union, it was noted that India implemented over $ 6.4 billion under the Lines of Credit committed/ongoing out of the overall $ 10 billion made at the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015.

Having already held three India-Africa Forum Summits, the fourth this year was postponed to 2021 following the outbreak of the global health pandemic.

The bilateral trade with Africa has been growing at a steady pace. From a modest US $ 5 billion in 2001 it stood at $ 69 billion recently, recording a 12 per cent year-on-year growth.

Among the major challenges faced by India is the level of engagement by China with Africa. According to data on China-Africa Research Initiative, in 2018, the China-Africa bilateral trade stood at $ 185 billion while Chinese investment was $ 5.4 billion.

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