Ficci to lead India Inc in pushing bilateral relations with African nations

In an effort to push the bilateral trade between India and Africa from the present $70-billion to $100-billion by 2015, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) is gearing up to market India’s growth story in Africa to ensure an upper hand in its investment race with China in Africa.

The apex chamber is leading its delegation to at least eight countries in Africa during the current financial year, including Liberia, Mozambique, Mauritius, Rowanda, Malawa, Ghana and Zambia.

Apart from this, Ficci is in touch with another 19 nations to become participants in its showcase programme ‘Namaskar Africa’ set to take place in Zambia late this year. ‘Namaskar Africa’ is a series of sub-regional India-Africa business networking forum and exhibition for businessmen, policymakers and institutions of India and Africa, organized by Ficci and the ministry of commerce.

Ficci is also batting for an Africa fund from the government to finance Indian investments there.

“The local governments are looking more at public-private-partnership projects with Indian companies like healthcare, mining, roads, railways, agriculture and power. We aim to lead Indian companies in raising the bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015. Chinese government is itself lobbying for its companies in that continent, so from Indian side, we want to lead the race,” said R V Kanoria, past president of Ficci, who led a delegation to Africa last month.

Currently, out of 54 African nations, Ficci has joint business councils or memoranda of understanding with local business chambers in more than 22 countries.

The major countries with which it has tie ups include South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Uganda, Seychelles and Senegal. On the other hand, it also has understandings with regional bodies like The Economic Community Of West African States, East Africa Business Council and COMESA Business Council.

“We are the pioneers in focusing Africa. Now, the country has to focus more on the continent to counter the deep pockets that Chinese companies have,” added Sheila Sudhakaran, assistant secretary general and head, Africa Desk of Ficci.

Ficci also holds 51 per cent equity in Invest India, the country’s official agency for investment promotion and facilitation.

In the venture, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry has 35 per cent stake, while each state governments have 0.5 per cent stake. This venture also is looking on African countries and companies to boost the bilateral trade.

India is currently the fourth-largest trading partner of Africa, followed by the European Union, China and the United States. However, the gap between Indian and Chinese presence in the continent is huge.

Indian corporates like Bharti, Tatas, Bajaj Auto, Godrej, Marico are present in African markets.

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