Government initiatives aiding India-West Africa trade surge

Accra (Ghana), Oct 15 (IANS) Reflecting India's efforts to deepen engagement with west Africa, the surge in India's trade with the region has been facilitated by several government initiatives, a senior Indian diplomat said here.

"India has demonstrated its commitment to playing a substantive role in the development of the west Africa region through its trade and investment, cooperation in the area of oil and gas, education, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, mining, textiles as well as infrastructure," Shamma Jain, joint secretary of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), said at the opening of the fourth ICWA Academic Conference in the Ghanaian capital.

"India's trade with west Africa, which was worth $25 billion during the 2012-13 financial year, is progressing towards the target of $40 billion by 2015," Jain added.

India has also focused on intensifying its relations with the Regional Economic Communities in Africa and has accordingly used the good offices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to direct its engagement with developmental programmes, Jain said.

"India has extended letters of credit worth $500 million to the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) for different projects in west Africa," Jain said.

Capacity building is a major thrust of India's development cooperation with west Africa, and Jain recalled that since 1964, India has committed its India Technical and Economical Cooperation (ITEC) programme to work shoulder to shoulder with development of countries across the world and "especially those in Africa".

"The ITEC programme has contributed significantly to the upgradation of human resource skills across African countries by providing short and medium-term professional training courses in a wide range of areas," Jain said.

She said India has offered around 900 scholarships to west African countries under ITEC and other affiliated programmes and added that "to provide sustained and long-term training to African professionals, India has decided to set up 100 professional institutes across Africa by allocating $700 million for the purpose".

Ghana's Minister for Foreign Affairs Hannah Tetteh, who also addressed the inaugural of the two-day conference, said there was need for more collaboration between India and Africa to fight the scourge of terrorism.

Some members of the 15-nation ECOWAS group, like Mali and Niger, have been recently engaged in dealing with activities of terrorist groups active in cross-border areas.

Tetteh said records show that the first Indians arrived in Ghana in 1890 with the first Indian company being established in 1919, which signified that the foundations of cooperation had already been laid.

India's trade with Africa is poised to achieve the target of $90 billion by 2015, compared to $70 billion achieved during the 2011-12 financial year, Jain said.

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