India on Friday said it sees Africa as a natural partner and sought greater cooperation with the continent in agriculture and agro-processing, engineering, textiles, leather and pharmaceuticals.
Cooperation in these sectors would have a positive bearing on the food security, improvement in the health situation and creation of additional jobs in both Africa and India, minister for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman said.
She was speaking at the 4th India-Africa Trade Ministers’ Meeting, held in New Delhi on the eve of the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit on October 29. The trade ministers/officials from 37 African countries including Algeria, Angola, Benin, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe amongst others participated in the meeting.
Sitharaman said both India and Africa face similar challenges and concerns and the world economy offers tremendous opportunities to the two fastest growing regions.
She said consequent to the First India-Africa Forum Summit in Delhi in 2008, India made an announcement of granting duty-free tariff preference to least developed countries (LDCs) in order to open the Indian market to greater exports from African countries. Since April 2014, the scheme has been further expanded and as of now, India provides duty-free market access on about 96% of India’s tariff lines and another 2.2% tariff lines to LDCs, thus providing benefits on 98.2% of all tariff lines. In addition, India has been one of the first countries to provide a services package for LDCs and has also waived visa fees for businessmen from LDC countries travelling to India.
Sitharaman said value addition is the key to development and enhancing livelihood opportunities for people. India has made significant progress transforming itself from being an importer to a net exporter in many sectors, she said, adding that India would endeavour to share its experience and expertise in partnering with African countries which have potential for value addition and creating jobs.
The meeting saw deliberations on the review of progress in the implementation of commitments of earlier India-Africa Trade Ministers’ Meetings and review of existing trade and business relations between India and Africa. The two sides also had discussions on a duty-free tariff preference (DFTP) scheme and services waiver for LDCs and a cotton technical assistance programme (TAP). A Round Table on WTO issues was also held during the meeting.