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India, Africa to boost cooperation in energy, agri: Sitharaman

New Delhi :India and Africa have identified areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, healthcare and energy for boosting bilateral cooperation, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.

In a joint statement issued after the fourth India-Africa Trade Ministers’ meeting, Sitharaman said both India and Africa face similar challenges and concerns and the world economy offers tremendous opportunities to the two ‘fastest growing regions’.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, she said: “We have not set any targets (related to bilateral trade). However, we did identify areas of common interest and it has emerged very clearly that infrastructure, expanding the scope of agriculture, energy, human resource development and healthcare seem to be the areas in which there is immediate possibility of cooperation with African countries and Indian businesses”.

Exhorting captains of industry from India and Africa to drive business, she said that the private sector should take the lead in promoting investment between India and Africa and assured that the governments of India and member African countries would facilitate the private sector by providing them with a conducive regulatory environment.

Pointing out that she had a “very useful” discussion with her African counterparts, Sitharaman said: “Africa holds immense potential not just as (India’s) export destination but also because there is scope for infrastructure development, for a hospital administration to go build-operate and transfer hospitals, and also if you pick up some mines and extract minerals and bring them back to India”. (MORE) PTI RSN MR She added that FDI inflows into Africa has been growing phenomenally and with enhanced joint ventures and partnerships the FDI is bound to reach the next level.

Speaking on the issue of WTO, Sitharaman said India and Africa were aligned on the issues and both were in favour of multilateral trading system.

The Minister said that the food stockpiling issue was “briefly discussed”, keeping in mind that a WTO Ministerial Conference is being held in Nairobi in December.

Highlighting the importance of India-Africa Summit, Sitharaman said the Summits have become a unique platform where the Government of India and African partners identify areas of cooperation through dialogue and strive to expanding and enhancing the partnership.

“Cooperation in Trade, Technology and Capacity Building form the basis of our relationship,” she said.

Elaborating on promotion of African tourism in India, Sitharaman said that issues of connectivity and visa need to be addressed to promote tourism and the Indian government was looking into the issue and would soon resolve them.

Asked about pro-investment African regulations, Rajan Bharti Mittal, Acting Co-Chair of IABC (India-Africa Business Council) said: “It really depends on sector to sector. Sure enough if there are infrastructure projects, with long gestation and huge investments any enterprise across the world would like to have majority.”

The African Union needs to come out with rules and regulations for certain industries like telecom and infrastructure which involve long gestation period along with huge investments, he said.

Mike Bimha, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe, said that Africa was rich in natural resources, trained and skilled manpower and was looking towards India for transfer of technology and adding value to their abundantly available raw material.

He added that the African economy was opening its doors to foreign investors and was eager to partner with India as the two share a long history of beneficial trade and investment.

“I made a reference on sub-regional groupings in Africa. Most of these are now in the process of establishing free trade areas. We are also talking about a tripartite free trade area, and a continental free trade areas.

“We would like to see adding value to what we produce and to trade not just among ourselves but also with the outside world,” Bimha said.

Asked about the political instability in some African nations, Kant said: “We don’t take a short-term view of our relationship with Africa. Businessmen must take a very long perspective”.

The 4th IATMM saw deliberations on Review of progress in the implementation of commitments of earlier India Africa Trade Ministers’ Meetings and Review of Existing Trade and business relations between India and Africa.

The two sides also had discussions on Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme and Services Waiver for LDCs and Cotton Nirmala Sitharaman (TAP).

The Round Table on WTO issues was also held during the meeting. A meeting of the India Africa Business Forum was a highlight of the event.
The third India-Africa Forum Summit will be held from October 26-29, 2015 in Delhi.