Even as New Delhi has chosen Ghana for hosting a three-day exposition to facilitate Indian investments in that country and the neighbouring West African countries, experts have urged that Francophone (French-speaking) and Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) countries in the continent should also be explored. The ‘Namaskar 2017’ exposition will be inaugurated by MoS in the ministry of external affairs MJ Akbar and is part of ‘Namaskar Africa’, a regional flagship programme where Ficci in partnership with the ministry of commerce and industry will create awareness about the best Indian technologies and products in the region as well as explore opportunities offered by the region.
Urging India to move beyond Anglophone countries in Africa, Prof Ajay Dubey, Centre for African Studies, JNU, told FE, “India should target Francophone and Lusophone African countries by developing language skills and market research in these regions. Efforts need to be made in the banking and transport services too.”
Lusophone countries include Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, and, since 2011, Equatorial Guinea. Some of the Francophone countries in the region which offer immense opportunities for cooperation in agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Côte, d’Ivoire, Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Haiti, Mali and Niger.
According to Dubey, “To meet the Chinese challenge in the continent, there is an urgent need for combining friendly overseas private companies from Japan and the US to increase the quantum of its investments in infrastructure, construction and manufacturing areas.” Ghana, which has the ability to contribute towards India’s energy and food security, is the focus country, with India setting a bilateral trade target of $5 billion by 2020.
Experts suggest Indian MSMEs be given focus and facilitated to enhance their presence in the African market, and efforts should be made to streamline trade procedures, enhance maritime connectivity and develop robust logistics infrastructure to reduce trade costs and strengthen trade ties between India and Africa.
In addition, Ghana has been preparing to implement the regional economic grouping, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Common External Tariff (CET), a major platform for a Customs Union that facilitates free trade and ensures greater regional economic integration.
These engagements help the Indian industry connect with the private sector, government and related institutions in the country, where it is hosted along with the neighbouring countries that participate in it. The event is expected to include a business forum as well as exhibition on agriculture and food processing, construction, power, technology and textiles, and education.
To make Indian businessmen more acceptable in Africa, there is an urgent need for more people-to-people interaction, more sanitised information and awareness to Indians about Africa and African people. “Looking at the strong response from African as well as Indian industries, and the demand for increasing the scale of the programme, it expanded to include three critical components of exhibition, conference and business-to-business with an objective of reflecting India’s engagement cutting across trade, investment, technology transfer and capacity-building,” said Ficci in a statement.
While India figures in the top five import destinations for Ghana, the value of exports from India has been continuously declining over the past five years except for 2013-14. Imports from Ghana continue to increase, leading to a negative trade balance for India.