Commerce ministry arranges interaction with Indian diaspora to boost trade with Africa

The union commerce ministry and Indian High Commissions and embassies of eleven African countries arranged an interaction over digital video conference (DVC) over two days - on 3 and 6 May - with the Indian business community in Africa. This initiative was held in order to build an effective engagement with the Indian Diaspora in Africa in order to further deepen and strengthen India-Africa trade ties.

The interactions with Indian diaspora were held in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, and Madagascar. 
The DVC was attended by over 400 members of Indian business community in 11 African countries.
India’s total trade with the African region during 2017-18 was $62.69 billion (8.15 per cent of India’s total trade with the outside World). India’s share of exports to African countries as a percentage of India’s total exports to the world was of the order of 8.21 per cent in 2017-18.  Africa region’s share in India’s total imports from the world stood at 8.12 per cent in 2017-18.
With the world’s largest land mass, 54 countries, a population growing to be almost equivalent to that of India, huge mineral resources, oil wealth, a youthful population, falling poverty levels and increasing consumption patterns, African countries present immense opportunities for India.
Africa has a huge demand for new business models for market entry, stable market access, entrepreneurship and investments in transport, telecom, tourism, financial services, real estate and construction. 
This initiative of the commerce ministry emphasizes the need for a multipronged strategy for further enhancing trade and investment ties between the two regions. According to the commerce ministry, for formulating an effective export strategy it is imperative to engage the Indian business community in Africa for mutual gain for both sides as trade relations between the people of same origin instill greater confidence amongst trade partners.
The Indian community in Africa is playing a vital role in all fields like politics, business and education. As per the latest available estimates the current strength of the Indian diaspora in the African countries is 2.8 million out of which 2.5 million are PIOs and rest 220,967 are NRIs. Total overseas Indians are 30.83 million of which 17.83 million are PIOs and 13 million are NRIs. (as per 2016 figures). Indian diaspora in Africa constitutes 9.11 per cent of the total diaspora of India.
The Indian diaspora has established strong links with the political, economic and social fabric of the African continent. In order to formulate a strategy to boost India-Africa Trade and Investment, the Indian diaspora in Africa has to be leveraged further in order to ensure that the strategy is effective. Suggestions were sought from the India business community.
The major issues highlighted by the Indian business community in these 11 countries are:
  • Improving the Line of Credit system and developing a facility for an affordable and competitive funding;
  • Setting up of Indian banks/financial institutions in Africa;
  • Enhanced Buyers’ Credit facility for promotion of trade between the two regions;
  • Reviewing and liberalising visa policies from both sides; 
  • Need for direct flights between the India and African countries;
  • Exploring the possibility of rupee trade to address the issue of shortage of dollars in region;
  • Creation of common database of buyer-suppliers in the two regions for facilitating matchmaking for enhancement of bilateral trade;
  • Development of a robust trade dispute settlement mechanism; 
  • More frequent and structured country/sector specific trade exhibitions in Africa;
  • Establishment of country chapters of FICCI or CII in Africa; and
  • Frequent visits of policy makers, chamber of commerce and investors for familiarisation with local business and investment regime for informed decisions.
The Department of Commerce welcomed the suggestions of the Indian business community and assured them that these suggestions will be shared with relevant stakeholders /departments in order to incorporate the suggestions in the India-Africa strategy for trade promotion.
Senior officers from department of commerce and ministry of external affairs were present during the interactions.