Govt stresses for deeper engagement with Africa

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (UNI) The Government today said it anticipates closer relationships with Africa in order to expand and diversify the country's import basket from the continent.

''India keenly anticipates a deeper and closer engagement with Africa and is eager to work together for greater mutual prosperity... India needs to expand and diversify the import basket from the continent,'' Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said here while addressing the 4th CII-EXIM Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership 2008.

He said agriculture and food processing are key sectors for cooperation, as both sides are prone to food shortages, lack of diversification in crops, and low agricultural productivity.

The Minister was of the view that the country's strategic global engagements depend much on its strong relations with Africa and with a view to further strengthen the relationship the first India-Africa Summit meeting will be held in New Delhi on April 8.

He further stated that the government also desires to forge a robust, effective and mutually beneficial economic relationship with Africa.

Mr Nath hoped that this Conclave will set the stage for a bilateral and multilateral trade agreements between India and countries as well as regional blocks like SACU, COMESA, SADC, EAC in Africa.

India's exports to Africa during 2006-07 stood at 8.4 billion dollars, while imports aggregated 11.4 billion dollars, having almost doubled since previous year.

Exports to Africa are regionally diversified with East, Southern and West Africa accounting for 2.5-3 billion dollars each.

''Project partnership is a key in this effort. It will help strengthen local skill resources, expand infrastructure availability and lay the foundation for strong and sustainable economic cooperation between India and Africa. Our mutual goals of poverty alleviation, human development and economic growth can be addressed in part through project partnerships,'' Mr Nath said.

The 3-day Conclave will be attended by the Ministers from Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faszo, Chad, Comoros, Cote D'Ivore, D R Congo, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Earlier, Mr Nath had a bilateral meeting with Mr Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Vice President of the Republic Ghana and discussed various matters pertaining to the bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. Mr Joe Baidoe Ansah, Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana was also present at the discussions.

UNI SBA MP ht2125

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