Sushma Swaraj highlights India-Africa bilateral trade

New Delhi, Oct.27 : Highlighting the economic engagement between India and Africa, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said the bilateral trade between both sides has multiplied 20 times in the last 15 years.

“Today, India is rising, and so is Africa. We are the most rapidly growing developing economies in the world. We are very happy to note the intensification of India-Africa economic engagement in recent years. Our bilateral trade has multiplied 20 times in the last 15 years and doubled in the last five years to reach nearly 72 billion US dollars in 2014-2015,” she said while addressing the ministerial meeting of the third India-Africa Forum Summit.

“India was among the first emerging economies to unilaterally put in place a duty-free market access scheme for LDCs (least developed countries). In 2014, we expanded this scheme to now include 98 percent of tariff lines. The benefits of this scheme extend to 34 African countries to increase their exports to India,” she added.

She also took the opportunity to underline the growing investment by Indian companies in Africa, thereby leading to diversification of economic activity and generating employment.

“There is growing investment by the Indian companies in Africa in a range of sectors such as telecommunications, hydrocarbons, agriculture, manufacturing, IT, water treatment and supply, drugs and pharmaceuticals, coal, automobiles, floriculture and textiles. Such investment brings in capital and technology, and assists value addition and industrialisation,” said Swaraj.

Drawing attention to the meeting of the Trade Ministers of both parties in New Delhi last week, Swaraj said that the meeting provided a useful opportunity to discuss ways to expand economic and commercial cooperation.

The India-Africa relationship draws on a long, shared history of struggle against European colonialism and a determination to ensure equality in the post-colonial world order. India is the third-biggest contributor of UN peacekeepers to the continent, helping clamp down on civil wars in Sudan and Congo.

India has invested largely in agriculture and telecommunications. Its investments have more of a direct economic impact on the lives of ordinary Africans, 70 percent of whom are engaged in some form of agriculture, and at least 30 percent of whom have access to a mobile phone.

Last year, the Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel announced a $9 billion deal to purchase the African operations of Zain Telecommunications.

“Africa continues to grow. Despite the challenges, it offers the last bastion of growth. And what we have seen is the rise in the middle class in Africa, rise in consumption in Africa. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 130 million people got added to the middle class. And by 2020, another 100 million are expected to be there. So clearly it is a very large market. The Indian investors, the Indian business people are indeed focusing on Africa in a bigger way,” said Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. (ANI)