ASSOCHAM Webinar on “India- Africa Economic Ties Redefined Post COVID-19”

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

To enhance the relationship between the countries of the continent and India, we must focus more on mutually beneficial character: H.E. Mr. Ben Joubert, Minister Plenipotentiary, High Commission of South Africa in India.

Boosting India’s ties with Africa is a key priority for the Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s India-Africa vision. The Focus Africa programme of the Government of India is a salient indicator of our longstanding commitment to buildstrong India-Africa ties and bolster South-South Cooperation:
Dr. Srikar K. Reddy, Joint Secretary- Africa, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India
 
A special webinar was organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) to provide a fresh impetus to the robust India-Africa economic partnership during theongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and to redefine these ties for afurther strengthened partnership post-pandemic.
 
H.E. Mr. Ben Joubert, Minister Plenipotentiary, High Commission of South Africa, India, Dr Srikar K. Reddy, Joint Secretary- Africa, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, Mr. Solomon Quaynor, Vice-President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization Complex, African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Sudatta Mandal, Chief General Manager, India Exim Bank, Dr. Enobong Umoessien, Head, Business and Enterprise Promotion, ECOWAS Commission, Abuja, Nigeria, Mr. Vineet Agarwal, Senior Vice President, ASSOCHAM and Managing Director, Transport Corporation of India Limited, Mr. MSRV Prasad, Group Chairman, Prasaditya Group and former Co- Chairman, Africa Business Promotion Council, ASSOCHAM, Senator Daniel Gbenga Aluko, Executive Chairman, Alsteg & Midlands Limited, Dr. Bharat Patel, Managing Director, Bharat Biogas Private Ltd, and Mr. Sunder Belani, Managing Director, Ramsons, were part of the panel.
 
Welcoming the panelists, Mr. Vineet Agarwal saidIndia and Africa share longstanding cultural and historical ties not just from a political perspective but from a social and economic perspective as well. The India and Africa partnership is based on Gandhian values and the spirit of fair cooperation, capacity building, and multilateral benefit through an exchange of ideas and services.

While talking about the adverse effects of the pandemic and disruption of supply chains in Africa, H.E. Mr. Joubert emphasised that the current situation demands leavingbehind pre-COVID policies behind and strategising and adopt new policies and approaches.

“Africa, at the beginning of this year was projected to grow by more than 3% in 2020 and by 3.5% in 2021. However, the current situation has hit these growth projections hard,” Mr. Joubert added.

Mr. Joubert further highlighted the areas of cooperation such as information technology, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, mining equipment, and services where more opportunities should be explored.
Dr Srikar Reddy explained how the intense high-level engagement over the past decade and the India-Africa Forum Summits (IAFS) have boosted the engagement since the first edition held in 2008.

Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 on India Africa trade, Dr. Reddy said that“new ways and means, and extra efforts are required to mitigate the adverse effect of COVID-19and to spike up India-Africa trade. Indian embassies and consulates in Africa need to play a key role in identifying new business and investment opportunities in Africa and ramp up their trade facilitation efforts,” Dr. Reddy added.
 
Total trade between India and Africa stood at US$67billion in the period 2019-2020. Eight African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Ghana have a combined share of 66% of the India’s total trade with Africa. “It is evident that there is a great need for geographic diversification and expansion for strengthening India-Africa trade to unlock the vast potential between the two regions,” Dr. Reddy advised.
 
“Greater multilateral financing support from international development and funding partners, will be necessary to meet financial requirements in Africa. As a member of G-20, India is also providing debt service to many partner countries in Africa,” he added.

Mr. Solomon Quaynor explained how the current COVID-19 pandemic is a black swan event for Africa, which has forced African economies to evaluate their resources and devise strategies to identify trustworthy partners and become self-reliant.

“Some of the major challenges, whichAfrica is facing currently are managing the current COVID-19 pandemic, creating jobs for African youth, and free movement of goods and commodities within African region”, Mr. Quaynor added.

He further highlighted the four major areas of India-Africa cooperation  - restructuring and investing in Africa’s healthcare system, investing in Africa’s agro-processing sector to tackle the issue of food security, investing in Africa’s infrastructure development, and strengthening the African digital economy.

As of June 2020, India has committed USD 12.7 billion for 40 countries in Africa representing 41% of the cumulative operational LoCs of India EXIM Bank globally, informed Mr. Sudatta Mandal, adding “the core areas of Exim Bank’s Africa development initiatives are fully in tune with Africa’s development goals with focus on three core areas namely, infrastructure, capacity building and technical cooperation”,

According to a joint study by India Exim Bank and AfriExim Bank, tremendous untapped potential to the tune of USD42billion awaits the bilateral trade and investment partnership between India and Africa, Mr. Mandal added.

Africa has an infrastructure gap of USD1.7 trillion and India must partner with Africa to fill this gap through diverse sectors and initiatives including renewable energy cooperation, appropriate policies, and business models, he advised.

Dr. Enobong Umoessien talked about the initiatives of ECOWAS for greater
South-South Cooperation closer cooperation between the two regions. Many Indian companies have invested in sectors of Agriculture, Pharma, Food processing, etc. These ties have been beneficial to all the stakeholders involved, he said.

Dr. Umoessien emphasised that long-term, low-cost capital and technology are essential for greater integration and development of infrastructure, roads, ports, and telecom. Also, Africa needs to boost its production of ecology and to promote exports. Indian businesses can help Africa by bringing their expertise on the table.

Industry representatives
from Prasaditya Group, Alsteg & Midlands, Nigeria, Bharat Biogas, and RamsonsGroup shared experiences of their companies and doing business in India and Africa respectively and expressed confidence that the deep engagement of industry and political leadership on both sides will help the Indo-Africaeconomic partnership attain greater heights in the post COVID-19 era.

The session was moderated by Ms. Sheila Sudhakaran, Editor, TrendsnAfrica.
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