08-14-2022     3 رجب 1440

India-Gabon Relations: Building on Opportunities

August 02, 2022 | Dr D.K. Giri

Last week a bevy of diplomats and high-level ministers from several African countries descended in capital for a two-day business summit. This was 17th edition of the conclave launched by CII-Exim Bank on India-Africa Growth Partnership, seventeen years ago in 2005. This conclave has the support of India’s Ministries of External Affairs and Commerce and Industry. It is reported that, over the years, this format of exchange, “has emerged as one of the largest congregation of senior ministers, policy makers and business leaders from Africa and India. Cutting across sectors, and has played a vital role in encouraging Indian companies to make and grow their footprint in Africa”.

It is perhaps in order that India should look towards Africa for trade and investment as this Continent will prove to be the future of the world economy. An expert on Indian economy, a French national, Jean-Joseph Boillot has made the prediction, in his book ‘Chinafrique, avez-vousdit’? (Chinafrica, did you say?) that China-India-Africa will shape tomorrow’s world. He says that China’s economy will peak whereas those of India and Africa will grow. India should consciously heed such predictions by experts, position herself in order to grab the opportunities beckoning in Africa.
So far, trade between the African Sub-Continent and India amounts to 6.4 per cent of total African trade. This was the figure from Afriexim Bank showing an increase from 7.2 billion USD in 2001 to 66.7 billion USD in 2020 making India the fourth largest trading partner of Africa – around 8 per cent of Indian imports are from Africa and 9 per cent exports to the Continent. India is the eighth largest investor in Africa combining both public and private sector enterprises. Lines of Credit (LOCs) worth 12.26 billion USD have so far been extended to African countries making them the second largest recipient of India’s concessional loans. Thirty eight African countries have benefited from India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference scheme (DFTP) which provides duty free access to 98.2 per cent of India’s total tariff lines. In the pandemic, under the Vaccine Maitri Initiative, India supplied 24.7 million dozes of made-in-India Covid vaccines to 42 countries in Africa. So far so good.
Yet, India has a long way to traverse, as Africa is a huge Continent. It can be covered as Indian economy picks up at home. Another issue to factor in any international trade talks is China as the elephant in the room. Boillot takes this into account in his book and suggests that, eventually, India will overtake China in Africa. Let us however be clear that it is not automatic.
As a sample of the opportunities to explore, let us look at a Central-African country, Gabon. A delegation of a dozen people comprising ministers and diplomats interacted with the Indian business community in Delhi at the behest of a voluntary trade promotion agency called ‘Indian Economic Trade Organisation’ based in Bengaluru. Also, Gabon hosted only couple of months ago, the Vice-President, M. Venkaiah Naidu whose visit was first Vice-Presidential visit to the country. The Vice-President reiterated the ‘commitment of Government of India to be Gabon’s reliable partner in its development journey’. On his meetings with President of the Senate of Gabon and the Speaker of Gabonese National Assembly, Naidu gifted them the replicas of original Indian Constitution emphasising the importance of shared values of democracy and pluralism in India-Gabon bilateralism.
As per the GoI’s perception, Gabon is a significant partner of India. Both the countries are currently serving as non-permanent members of the UNSC. The trade between the two countries has reached 1.12 billion USD in 2021-22. About one thousand Indians live in Gabon. A number of Gabonese nationals pursue scholarship/training programmes provided by the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). In business sector, more than 50 Indian companies are engaged in Gabon Special Economic Zone. Talks are on about advancing cooperation across the sectors including trade, investment, energy, IT, capacity building, health, pharmaceuticals and more.
In the interaction in New Delhi, Gabon delegation acknowledged the cultural similarity – pluralism and diversity – between the two countries. They expressed their keen desire to do business with India. In my short presentation, I pointed out the similarity of history and prospects of a shared future. Both India and Africa were colonised and have inherited political systems which are not co-terminus with their societies. They have the challenge of reconciling their multiple identities of language and ethnicity etc. A sharp and pointed observation drew very positive response from their TradeMinister..The remark was that India happens perforce to compete with China in foreign trade. At the moment, China is much bigger economy than India, who has social and political capital which China does not. So the choice for the partners is between democracy, pluralism and development (India) and autocracy, totalitarianism and exclusion.
The response to the above remark was, “we have deliberately decided to go with India. We understand democracy could be slow and cumbersome but it is a sustainable political system reconciling multiple interests and providing space for every citizen of the country. India is an example as well as inspiration for many of us in Africa”. That was an encouraging note to build relations with. The Gabonese delegation then presented elaborately the scope of business cooperation.
Gabon is a country of two million people, with 85 per cent of forest coverage and 850 kms of coastline. It is the second world producer of high grade manganese, second global producer of veneer seeds, one of the top two in Africa in GDP per capita, seventh Sub-Saharan African oil producer. In order to relaunch the national economy, hit hard by the pandemic, Gabon has committed itself to a Transformation Acceleration Plan (PAT). It is aimed at diversification and structural transformation of the economy over the period 2021/2023. The plan is also based on acknowledging the gradual decline of oil and the rise of new sectors owing to exploitation of natural resources – mining, agriculture, wood, fishing etc.
The opportunities outlined consisted of fishing sector – construction of a Tuna processing plant in the capital town of Libreville in order to enhance storage and processing capacities; infrastructure sector – construction of a new railway line between Owendo and Booue in order to transport iron ore, and construction of the administrative city: forestry sector – reforestation of 60 thousand hectares of forest with marketable and multi-purpose species (12,000 per year) in order to identify harvested and un-harvested species; agriculture sector, two agro-industries to be developed in Andem and Congo in order to intensify the diversity of the economy through modern agro-industry and reduce food imports; energy sector – development of an energy project in order to secure and guarantee the supply of energy in Gabon.
To sum up, not only India, many countries in the world are far more interested than before in this Continent. India has the advantage of language and cultural affinity. As expressed by the Minister from Gabon, the appreciation of India’s support for democratic practices, processes and institutions is growing in Africa. So India must look at the Continent but engage with countries individually like the promising land of Gabon.

 


Email:--------dr.dkgiri@gmail.com

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India-Gabon Relations: Building on Opportunities

August 02, 2022 | Dr D.K. Giri

Last week a bevy of diplomats and high-level ministers from several African countries descended in capital for a two-day business summit. This was 17th edition of the conclave launched by CII-Exim Bank on India-Africa Growth Partnership, seventeen years ago in 2005. This conclave has the support of India’s Ministries of External Affairs and Commerce and Industry. It is reported that, over the years, this format of exchange, “has emerged as one of the largest congregation of senior ministers, policy makers and business leaders from Africa and India. Cutting across sectors, and has played a vital role in encouraging Indian companies to make and grow their footprint in Africa”.

It is perhaps in order that India should look towards Africa for trade and investment as this Continent will prove to be the future of the world economy. An expert on Indian economy, a French national, Jean-Joseph Boillot has made the prediction, in his book ‘Chinafrique, avez-vousdit’? (Chinafrica, did you say?) that China-India-Africa will shape tomorrow’s world. He says that China’s economy will peak whereas those of India and Africa will grow. India should consciously heed such predictions by experts, position herself in order to grab the opportunities beckoning in Africa.
So far, trade between the African Sub-Continent and India amounts to 6.4 per cent of total African trade. This was the figure from Afriexim Bank showing an increase from 7.2 billion USD in 2001 to 66.7 billion USD in 2020 making India the fourth largest trading partner of Africa – around 8 per cent of Indian imports are from Africa and 9 per cent exports to the Continent. India is the eighth largest investor in Africa combining both public and private sector enterprises. Lines of Credit (LOCs) worth 12.26 billion USD have so far been extended to African countries making them the second largest recipient of India’s concessional loans. Thirty eight African countries have benefited from India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference scheme (DFTP) which provides duty free access to 98.2 per cent of India’s total tariff lines. In the pandemic, under the Vaccine Maitri Initiative, India supplied 24.7 million dozes of made-in-India Covid vaccines to 42 countries in Africa. So far so good.
Yet, India has a long way to traverse, as Africa is a huge Continent. It can be covered as Indian economy picks up at home. Another issue to factor in any international trade talks is China as the elephant in the room. Boillot takes this into account in his book and suggests that, eventually, India will overtake China in Africa. Let us however be clear that it is not automatic.
As a sample of the opportunities to explore, let us look at a Central-African country, Gabon. A delegation of a dozen people comprising ministers and diplomats interacted with the Indian business community in Delhi at the behest of a voluntary trade promotion agency called ‘Indian Economic Trade Organisation’ based in Bengaluru. Also, Gabon hosted only couple of months ago, the Vice-President, M. Venkaiah Naidu whose visit was first Vice-Presidential visit to the country. The Vice-President reiterated the ‘commitment of Government of India to be Gabon’s reliable partner in its development journey’. On his meetings with President of the Senate of Gabon and the Speaker of Gabonese National Assembly, Naidu gifted them the replicas of original Indian Constitution emphasising the importance of shared values of democracy and pluralism in India-Gabon bilateralism.
As per the GoI’s perception, Gabon is a significant partner of India. Both the countries are currently serving as non-permanent members of the UNSC. The trade between the two countries has reached 1.12 billion USD in 2021-22. About one thousand Indians live in Gabon. A number of Gabonese nationals pursue scholarship/training programmes provided by the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). In business sector, more than 50 Indian companies are engaged in Gabon Special Economic Zone. Talks are on about advancing cooperation across the sectors including trade, investment, energy, IT, capacity building, health, pharmaceuticals and more.
In the interaction in New Delhi, Gabon delegation acknowledged the cultural similarity – pluralism and diversity – between the two countries. They expressed their keen desire to do business with India. In my short presentation, I pointed out the similarity of history and prospects of a shared future. Both India and Africa were colonised and have inherited political systems which are not co-terminus with their societies. They have the challenge of reconciling their multiple identities of language and ethnicity etc. A sharp and pointed observation drew very positive response from their TradeMinister..The remark was that India happens perforce to compete with China in foreign trade. At the moment, China is much bigger economy than India, who has social and political capital which China does not. So the choice for the partners is between democracy, pluralism and development (India) and autocracy, totalitarianism and exclusion.
The response to the above remark was, “we have deliberately decided to go with India. We understand democracy could be slow and cumbersome but it is a sustainable political system reconciling multiple interests and providing space for every citizen of the country. India is an example as well as inspiration for many of us in Africa”. That was an encouraging note to build relations with. The Gabonese delegation then presented elaborately the scope of business cooperation.
Gabon is a country of two million people, with 85 per cent of forest coverage and 850 kms of coastline. It is the second world producer of high grade manganese, second global producer of veneer seeds, one of the top two in Africa in GDP per capita, seventh Sub-Saharan African oil producer. In order to relaunch the national economy, hit hard by the pandemic, Gabon has committed itself to a Transformation Acceleration Plan (PAT). It is aimed at diversification and structural transformation of the economy over the period 2021/2023. The plan is also based on acknowledging the gradual decline of oil and the rise of new sectors owing to exploitation of natural resources – mining, agriculture, wood, fishing etc.
The opportunities outlined consisted of fishing sector – construction of a Tuna processing plant in the capital town of Libreville in order to enhance storage and processing capacities; infrastructure sector – construction of a new railway line between Owendo and Booue in order to transport iron ore, and construction of the administrative city: forestry sector – reforestation of 60 thousand hectares of forest with marketable and multi-purpose species (12,000 per year) in order to identify harvested and un-harvested species; agriculture sector, two agro-industries to be developed in Andem and Congo in order to intensify the diversity of the economy through modern agro-industry and reduce food imports; energy sector – development of an energy project in order to secure and guarantee the supply of energy in Gabon.
To sum up, not only India, many countries in the world are far more interested than before in this Continent. India has the advantage of language and cultural affinity. As expressed by the Minister from Gabon, the appreciation of India’s support for democratic practices, processes and institutions is growing in Africa. So India must look at the Continent but engage with countries individually like the promising land of Gabon.

 


Email:--------dr.dkgiri@gmail.com


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Owner, Printer, Publisher, Editor: Farooq Ahmad Wani
Legal Advisor: M.J. Hubi
Printed at: Abid Enterprizes, Zainkote Srinagar
Published from: Gulshanabad Chraresharief Budgam
RNI No.: JKENG/2010/33802
Office No’s: 0194-2451076, 9622924716 , 9419400056
Postal Regd No: SK/135/2010-2019
Administrative Office: Abi Guzer Srinagar

© Copyright 2018 brighterkashmir.com All Rights Reserved.