Half a century into its technical outreach to the least developed and developing nations, India is helping create hubs of small and medium industries in some of the African countries to enable job generation and add value to their exports.
The gradually emerging trend in the recent years is a win-win situation for both. It is a sign of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, begun in 1964 coming of age.
On his visit, the first by an Indian Head of State to Cote D’Ívoire, President Pranab Mukherjee discussed setting up of a plant to process cashewnuts. Coco and cashewnuts are major exports of Cote D’Ívoire, a tiny western West African nation, to India. Indeed, Cote d’Ivoire is the second largest exporter of cashew in the world and India imports around 80% of Ivorian exports of cashew.
A Joint Business Forum was held during Mukherjee’s visit here with a view to encouraging establishment of business linkages and identifying new areas of mutual cooperation. The opening of a representative office of the Export Import Bank of India in Abidjan will also facilitate greater interaction between the business communities of the two countries, Mukherjee told President Alassane Qattarra at the banquet Tuesday evening.
India’s capacity building, that began more as a state-to-state drive, is slowly changing with more and more private Indian companies setting up manufacturing hubs.
While big ones have set up plants with local collaboration, the challenge still lies in getting small and medium enterprises interested in entering into such arrangements that require moving away from traditional areas, grappling with local rules and regulations and start production that takes time to start fetching profits.
Not all smaller nations are ready for hi-tech and could do with the intermediary technology that India has developed.
This has required imagination and initiative and facilitating increased participation of Indian enterprises entering territories that are uncharted or less charted. This has worked in several sectors, including pharmaceuticals and agro-based industries.
This helps in value-addition for the African side, while it takes care of the distance involved.
India’s developmental partnership in Africa has not come a day too early in that China is either already there in a big way or is coming in close. China has stepped in with factories and funds in an area that was traditionally India’s with a large diaspora that has been focused on trade rather than manufacture and setting up infrastructure.
A typical example is here where India’s bilateral trade is modest, but is planned to cross a billion dollars with such efforts.
Another aspect of the growing cooperation with the smaller African nations is the increasing emphasis on Information Technology. A number of Indian enterprises have established presence in Cote d’Ivoire in recent years making India one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in the country. Many Indian companies are operating in the mining and minerals sector.
There are also several Indian companies – small and medium size – involved in trading, manufacturing; ICT; agro-processing. Some leading Indian pharmaceutical companies also have operations in Cote d’Ivoire.