Energy security, food security, ‘blue economy’, education, health, skill-building and infrastructure will be the key topics of discussion during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the African continent next month.
During his four-nation visit to Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Mozambique, Modi is expected to seek further strengthening of India’s economic as well as maritime ties with these countries. ‘Blue economy’ will be one of the major areas which India will be focussing on.
“Africa has a long coastline which is subject to global threat like piracy, and the Indian Navy has played a very significant role on the east coast of Africa in guarding the trade routes, in securing the coastlines, even helping African nations organising international events by providing naval security,” a senior official in the foreign ministry said.
The ‘blue economy’, the economy of the ocean, is extremely important to Africa, and India has had discussions on it with Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Mauritius.
Food security is also a common concern for India and Africa. India being the biggest producer of foodgrain and horticulture crop could help the African continent develop its agri sector. Diplomats from both sides have sought greater cooperation in agriculture and agro-processing, which would have a great bearing on the food security situation in Africa and India.
In boosting Africa’s agriculture production, India too can meets its food needs with imports from Africa, especially pulses, where India faces huge shortfall.
According to Tanzania’s deputy minister for agriculture and food security Adam Malima, “India’s cooperation was crucially important to ensure food security in the African region.”
Cheap land and labour costs in Africa are attracting a number of Indian firms with interest in agriculture. A large number of people in East African countries such as Kenya work in the cultivation of tea, coffee, corn, vegetables, sugarcane, wheat and fruits, among other things.
Both India and Mozambique have decided to ramp up economic engagement, particularly in the energy sector, as the African country has a “large source” of coal and natural gas to drive the growth of Indian economy.
Trade between the two countries has multiplied five times in the last five years and Modi said he was happy that Indian investments in these sectors have grown significantly in recent years. Mozambique hosts nearly 25% of Indian investments in Africa. Since India and Mozambique have large coastlines and are linked by the Indian Ocean, ways to intensify cooperation in maritime security and ocean economy will also figure during the discussions. India is a large trading and investment partner of Mozambique, with bilateral trade in 2014-15 reaching almost $2.4 billion.
India’s bilateral trade with the African continent is $70 billion. India has extended soft loans of about $7 billion to the African countries. Currently, India has investments worth over $32 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa.