New Delhi: The India-Africa Business Council (IABC), which was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the India-Africa Forum Summit in May 2011 with an aim to provide an institutional platform to strengthen economic ties between business communities of Indian and the African continent, will hold its inaugural meeting on March 17, 2012 in New Delhi.The Prime Minister has appointed Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman & group CEO, Bharti Enterprises, to be the co-chair from the Indian side. The Council will be formally launched by Anand Sharma, minister of commerce & industry, Government of India, and Dr Maxwell Mkwezalamba, commissioner for economic affairs, African Union Commission.Sunil Bharti Mittal said, "India and Africa have historically had strong trade and cultural ties and the past few years have seen significant increase in investment out of India into Africa, underlining the positive sentiment. Globalisation has offered immense growth and learning opportunities to businesses from both sides and the IABC will provide a strong platform to unlock this potential and give added impetus to the economic development of the two regions."Top business leaders from India and Africa will be a part of this meeting. There will also be representation from the African Union Commission, Pan-African Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Africa's regional economic groupings and the African Development Bank.The core sectors for cooperation to be facilitated by the Council will be agriculture, including agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, textiles, mining, petroleum & natural gas, IT & ITES, gems and jewellery, financial services (including microfinance), telecom, energy and core infrastructure, including roads and railways.Bilateral trade between India and Africa has grown from $967 million in 1991 to over $39 billion in 2009/10. Amongst other things, the Council will facilitate a consultative process to address issues standing in the way of economic and commercial relations.