By Devika Jyothi
The India-East Africa economic partnership has emerged to become multi-faceted in recent years, extending beyond trade and investment to knowledge sharing, technology transfers and skills development. With the growing importance of South-South cooperation, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and its project Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) have been collaborating with several key institutions and development partners, supporting initiatives that leverage India’s expertise to improve the productive and export capacities of African partner countries.
This multi-pronged objective of increasing trade, investment and development activities requires multi-level collaboration among all stakeholders including businesses, government, trade and investment promotion agencies, banking and finance as well as development institutions, to identify opportunities and address potential challenges. It is in this context that ITC, through SITA, collaborated with development partners, CII and the EXIM Bank to co-host the CII-EXIM Bank Regional Conclave on India and East Africa, themed ‘Partners in Development’ on 20-21 November in Kampala, Uganda. Aimed at showcasing investment opportunities in East Africa, the Regional Conclave is a follow-up on the 12th CII- EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership held in New Delhi in March this year.
Organised in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry – Government of India and the Government of Uganda, the Regional Conclave was addressed by both the President and the Prime Minister of Uganda, and attended by key ministers and government and business delegations from India and other East African countries as well as key representatives from industry, and from financial and development institutions working in the region. The Conclave presented an opportunity for the Indian private sector and key development institutions to identify priority areas and key projects for Indian investment and partnership with a long-term commitment to the region.
‘India and Africa can complement each other very well. We have a historical link of using the English language of which we should take advantage. Indians have been here for the last 130 years, running businesses,’ commented President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri K. Museveni in his keynote address. The vastness of the market between India and Africa, he added, would be advantageous to both parties if utilized fully. He urged Indian investors to set up industries in Uganda, especially in agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, minerals, ICT and services, among others.
The President then invited the Ugandan and Indian business men and women to take the stage and introduce their businesses. Accordingly, nearly 40 business men and women, representing businesses ranging from agro products to manufacturing, queued up to introduce their businesses to the President and the audience.
The last person to introduce himself was a businessman from the south of India. He decided to invest in a leather shoe manufacturing and leather finishing unit following an introduction by SITA and subsequent exposure missions to East Africa. He explained to the President his vision of producing children’s and women’s shoes in Uganda. In response, the President asked for his business card – an exciting introduction for one of the country’s newest investors.
In the opening session, Ms. Rita Teaotia, the Secretary of Commerce for the Government of India who led the Indian delegation, commented on the strong partnership that India has with African countries, especially Uganda. Despite some challenges in customs procedures and diverse regulations in doing business, India will make sure that business partnerships that the Sub-continent has with Africa are realised to their full potential, she said.
‘People are at the heart of this partnership,’ and the Conclave that started with Government to Government (G2G) deliberations will now include Business to Business (B2B) sessions as well, commented Sanjay Kirloskar, Chairman, CII Africa Committee & CMD, Kirloskar Brothers Limited.
Mr. David Rasquinha, Managing Director – EXIM Bank of India highlighted the $10 billion in lines of credit on offer to the region from India and welcomed proposals from East African companies to tap into the credit. He also lauded the efforts by East African governments to make their countries better places to do business. ‘Three economies in East Africa are ranked higher than India in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report. We wish to learn from their experiences in promoting business,’ he added, highlighting the opportunities for mutual learning that such partnerships offer.
Speaking at the inaugural session on “Partners in Development: Blending Business Synergies and Development Goals, ITC Deputy Executive Director Ms. Dorothy Tembo said, ‘I believe that SMEs on both sides have great opportunities for deepening their relationships and developing a partnership of equals – be it in their common aspirations to internationalise or in their business appetite.’
There is an increased understanding that Africa is the future for the growth of trade and investment. However, perception and information asymmetries are key issues when implementing trade related technical assistance (TRTA) projects, including in South-South. Ms. Tembo presented how ITC and SITA have been working to address these issues through inexpensive and practical solutions such as the multi-lingual Pulses Handbook, ITC-Level A mobile application and the online India – East Africa Trade Helpdesk to facilitate trade and investment between India and the East African region through the provision of information.
Further, the Conclave stressed the importance of strategic partnerships for development partners to facilitate and support business initiatives that promote sustainability. ‘None of our work would be possible without the Government of United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), which is supporting us to work on projects like SITA as well as PIGA (Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa) – allowing us to facilitate South-South trade and making these relationships happen,’ noted Ms. Tembo.
SITA Coordinator Mr.Govind Venuprasad chaired the agriculture and food processing panel, discussing how Indian know-how and private sector investment can be used to build sustainable agribusinesses in East Africa. SITA presented the India-East Africa Trade Information Portal and the ITC-Level A mobile application for agricultural trade between India and East Africa. The Portal and App are designed to reduce the challenges to international trade due to lack or asymmetry of trade and market information.
Further, SITA hosted separate sessions on the side lines of the event, including where Indian and African cotton stakeholders discussed concrete opportunities for technology and knowledge transfer, as well as B2B sessions in spices, pulses and sunflower oil, which brought together over 65 Indian and East African companies to assess opportunities for joint ventures, partnerships and business deals.
‘We are seeing a new era of investments between India and East Africa,’ observed the Prime Minister of Uganda, Hon. Dr. Ruhakan Rugunda in his concluding remarks. The growing participation of key delegates from East Africa and India and the high-profile engagements at the Conclaves are testimony to these heightened levels of India-Africa economic exchanges.
This cooperation will only continue to expand in future, and as Ms. Tembo noted in her opening remarks, ‘we will see a blend of inclusive, business-led development combining the Indian ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a Sanskrit phrase which means “the world is one family”, and our own African Ubuntu “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity” ushering in a new era of light and progress.’
More on the SITA sessions at the Conclave in upcoming blogs. . . .