The relationship between Asia and Africa is old in history and contemporary in aspirations. Their common past struggles offer the two continents enormous scope for cooperation. This bond is apparent in their coming together on many occasions: bilaterally, subregionally, and as a global force as the “one voice” of the developing world.
The Asian economy, especially East Asian economy, has proven resilient over the years, in turn helping push the global economy. Africa, meanwhile, is still on the growth path. Its young demography and economy require integration and expansion into Asia’s value chains of production. Together, Asia and Africa represent 70 percent of global population and 37 percent of global GDP.
Bharat Chamber of Commerce celebrated Africa Day with the High Commissioner and Ambassador of three African nations- Ghana, Niger and Zimbabwe, along with their economic and Trade Counsellors. The Chamber organised a Special Session on ‘India-Africa: New Perspectives of Trade and Investments: Focus East’.
The Session was addressed by His Excellency Mr. Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, High Commissioner of Ghana in India, His Excellency Mr. Ado Leko, High Commissioner of Niger in India, Mr. Ernest Nana Adjei, Minister–Counsellor, High Commission of Ghana in India and Mrs. Nomusa Mugwambi, Trade Officer, Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in India. His Excellency Mr. Cheremeh observed that with increased political stability and sustained multifaceted growth, Africa is no more viewed as a ‘backstop of foreign policy decision making’.
He further added, “Within the context of the shared desire of Africa and India to expand our cooperation, this event could not have taken place at a better time as we gradually pull ourselves out of the shadows of the Covid-19 pandemic”. Acknowledging the support that Africa received during the Covid-led disruptions from India, one of its top 5 trading partner, His Excellency Mr. Cheremeh emphasised the importance of the relationship in the post-Covid era in the field of education and training. Speaking on the current geopolitical scenario, His Excellency Mr. Cheremeh pointed out that the war in Ukraine has caused price rise of food, energy and fertilisers which had a devastating impact on food and nutrition and mobilisation of financial resources. “21st century problems require 21st century solutions,” His Excellency Mr. Cheremeh said while making his point on the need for cooperation in non-traditional strategic areas like digital, cybersecurity, green energy and sustainable development, apart from traditional areas of politics, trade and investment. Africa is also keen to explore further possibilities of cooperation through the ‘African Continental Free Trade Area’ (AfCFTA), removing tariff on 90% of goods.
Mr. Adjei, Minister Counsellor of Ghana referred to the Article 26 of Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865 where benefits and incentives for foreign investors are clearly outlined. He requested the participants that prospective investors are privileged to negotiate with GIPC for availing tax exemptions on exports and duty free import of machinery for factories. His Excellency Mr. Leko observed that the Western countries reaction to the Ukraine-Russia war to protect themselves had become costly for the developing countries like Africa and India. Forging the partnership between India and Africa would allow revival and boost in our economic growth. India and Niger have several areas of trade and investment opportunities that include mining, oil, energy, industry, infrastructure, communication services, urban planning, agriculture and livestock, banking, hospitality and tourism and crafts.
Mrs. Nomusa Mugwambi observed that global inflation has caused a sharp rise in food and energy prices. Mrs. Mugwambi pointed out that at this juncture, India being the fastest growing major economy and Zimbabwe being a country known for its diversity and rich mineral resources and a party to a number of preferential trading agreements, the two countries must make most of the opportunities in sectors like mining, pharmaceuticals, tourism, energy, agribusiness, infrastructure, ICT and the digital economy. Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) acts as the one stop for investment services aiming to enhance the business climate, she informed.
At the outset, Mr. N. G. Khaitan, President, observed that given the current geopolitical scenario, energy and food security are the two components that have assumed the highest priority. West Bengal having strength in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture could be considered as a priority by African nations, he added. Informing about the Chamber’s active role in facilitating the defence indigenisation programme of the Indian Government, the President suggested defence to be also considered as a priority sector.
Introducing the Theme of the Session, Mr. Sitaram Sharma, Chief Initiator, Bharat Chamber Africa Desk felt that the AfCFTA is a landmark decision to facilitate trade in Africa. He pointed out skill development, capacity building, and education as sectors with high scope for development.