By Dumisani Sigogo
Technology has enabled the continuation of efforts to increase trade and tourism between India and Africa.
Undeterred by the novel coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging many countries, India and African representatives have resolved to strengthen ties.
A recent virtual India Africa Economic Forum examined the growth possibilities of trade and tourism between these old trading partners, whose social and economic ties date back thousands of years.
These potential projects include the development of a VIP airport in Zimbabwe, smart cities in African countries, and the establishment of a furniture corridor.
The India Africa Trade Council and the Indian Economic Trade Organization hosted the virtual meeting on Thursday 30 November 2020.
The meeting was attended by India’s ministry of external affairs, African ambassadors, diplomats based in New Delhi, business owners and industrialists.
Speaking at the meeting, the president of the Indian Economic Trade Organization, Dr Asif Iqbal said: “This is the right time to reshape this relation as we move ahead to a different scenario which has more to offer for our two subcontinents.
“The collaboration between these two historic partners would result in a powerful association of tomorrow.”
Some Indian merchants and business owners who live in Eastern Africa today can still trace their roots to the Omani suzerainty established in the 17th century over Zanzibar and its hinterland.
Colonialism also resulted in large numbers of Indians migrating to African countries.
“Two hundred big joint ventures and enterprises connected with India are already in Africa and they have to be multiplied manifold,” said Former Indian federal minister Dr. S. Krishnakumar.
“India has successful experiences in rural development, and empowerment of women such as the Self-Help Groups, rural banking revolution which can be implemented in Africa.”
Bangalore Airport City Limited CEO, Rao Munukutla, said developments envisaged included a VIP airport development in Zimbabwe, smart cities in Africa, and the establishment of a Mahatma Gandhi Furniture Corridor between India and Gabon.
Other planned developments include “Khelo India, Khelo Africa”, a Tunisian Indian centre for innovation, and India Africa Pharma and Agro Medicine projects. The Keho India programme was created to revive sports culture in India at the grass-root level.
Earlier this year, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a new smart-city would be built in Lanseria, which will accommodate at least 350,000 people within the next decade.
During the virtual India Africa Economic Forum, Tunisian Professor Boutheina Regaieg said: “India and Tunisia can maintain strong relations in the education sector and hence Establishing Tunisian Indian Centre for Innovation is important. We need Indian collaboration in computer and digital technology.
“India and Tunisia can calibrate in the following sectors: healthcare, pharmaceuticals, information technology, agro-food processing, agriculture, technology, research, telecom, transport, and marketing infrastructure.”
Zimbabwe Ambassador to India, Godfrey Majoni Chipare, said: “Our relationship is deeply rooted. We have shared common values including the respect for the sovereignty of each other and our cultural diversities.
“We are keen on promoting global justice and sustainable prosperity economically through mutual linkages.
“Zimbabwe has good business opportunities in areas from education, mining, mineral bifurcation, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, agro-processing, and the list can go on”.
Commenting on possible developments, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Ethiopia in India, Demesew Kebede Tekle said: “The Ethiopian government is restructuring custom tariffs.”
He said the Ethiopian government has introduced low duties on raw materials and semi-finished products as part of efforts to rationalise national opportunities.
“According to Projections, India Africa trade could double by 2021, if appropriate steps are taken by sovereign and corporate entities to raise the full benefit of the growth of the two trade partners,” said Kebede Tekle.
Senior Advisor with the government of Sweden, Ms Lena Backer, said: “She mentioned that in the next 30 years Africa will grow from 1.3 to 2.5 billion in habitat and that by 2050, every third person on the planet will live in Africa. Africa has resources and young people and so does India”.