India can help power up African continent in coming years

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Accra, Dec 16: Africa's projected growth can fructify by leveraging India's pledges at the recently held India Africa Forum (IAFS) summit in New Delhi to make public private partnership (PPP) programmes across the continent work, which could result in a slew of initiatives like power projects to generate 2,600 GW over the next decades, as also forward movement in the areas of agriculture, healthcare and telecommunications, experts say.

Indications that the private sector in India is aware of the opportunities that Africa has to offer can be summed up from what Vijay Kumar Chohan, executive director for international operations at Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, had to say: "There are immense opportunities to the tune of 2,600 GW over the next 10 years which would result in a number of transmission line projects."

Africa

There are also indications that some African countries would like to get into generating electricity from coal. Given this, it is encouraging that India's coal secretary, Anil Swarup, has said the country has targetted the doubling of production to one billion tonnes per year by 2020 and thereby increasing generation by 50 percent by that year.

African countries, experts say, can take forward Swarup's thoughts that India would be keen to partner with the continent to explore business opportunities in the coal sector by way of exploration, mining, development of projects and mines by Indian companies.

Agriculture offers another great opportunity. With a large pool of unemployed youth, Africa can take advantage of its improving investment climate to attract Indian money to grow its agriculture. International accounting firm KPMG has said the "potential for growth in the agricultural sector on the continent is huge", adding that agricultural growth in Africa has failed to reach its potential.

The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) says: "The value of Africa's agricultural output is about $280 billion and has the potential to reach $800 billion by 2030," adding: "It could address a major problem in Africa by providing economic opportunities for the 200 million people between 14 and 24 years old that make Africa home of the youngest population in the world." Thus, there are many who feel that changes in governance and an improved investment atmosphere can help attract private Indian capital.

And, amid indications that the continent's largest economy, Nigeria, is turning to China to help develop the country's agriculture, Indian companies also have the opportunity to engage in large-scale agricultural projects.

In the health sector, Nigeria alone is said to have lost close to $2 billion annually to India as a result of an inadequate health delivery sector.

KPMG Africa chairman Oluseyi Bickersteth told IANS: "In 2012, about 40 percent of all visas to India from Nigeria were for medical tourism and Nigerians spent about $260 million on medical expenses in India."

Bickersteth said Indian involvement in Nigeria's healthcare delivery is gradually increasing after a lull in the 1970s when most of the Indian medical officers operating in the country left. However, the new interest in Nigeria has been bolstered by the Indian government's announcement last January to set up two specialist units for eye and cancer care.

The telecom sector is another area that is looking for investors across the continent. Therefore, experts say, with the Indian government keen to improve the poor balance of trade with African countries, an improved political atmosphere backed by right policy frameworks would be the magnet to attract Indian companies.

IANS

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