India-Africa: Enhancing partnership through new initiatives

9 March 2014
ITC News

Address by Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director, International Trade Centre
Delivered on 9 March 2014 at the 10th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India Africa Project Partnership, New Delhi, India


Rt. Hon. Dr. Motsoahae Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho
Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry, India
Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General of the CII
Yaduvendra Mathur, Chairman of the EXIM Bank of India
S Gopalakrishnan, President of the CII
Noel Tata, Chairman of the CII Africa Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to be here today to join you on the occasion of the 10th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India Africa Project Partnership.

Ten years is a milestone. It is an opportunity to look back on what you have achieved and to chart the path for the way forward building on the knowledge and expertise that has been gained over the past decade.

It is particularly special to share the stage with the Prime Minister of Lesotho. The kingdom of Lesotho has many challenges but it has a government and people with clear objectives to use trade and private sector development as routers to growth and employment creation.

This year the International Trade Centre celebrates 50 years. We may be slightly older than this Conclave but you have many things that you can teach us as we also move forward to address the priorities and challenges of our clients: the small and medium enterprises in the developing countries.

The cornerstone of these annual meetings is partnership. Partnership is the most practicable, cost efficient and impact sustaining policy which we as governments, international organisations and the private sector can coalesce around.

In this fast changing world of technological change, of innovations in transportation and transformation in the ways goods and services are conceived, produced and traded, it is only through putting our resources in shared baskets and harnessing our comparative advantage that we can truly have the scale and impact that we need to use trade and private sector development as transformative tools.

Partnership is not about hierarchy. It is not about bureaucracy. It is about using knowledge and resource bases as multipliers. The Conclave shows us how partnership can work. It has taken what ten years ago may not have seemed a natural partnership- business links between India and Africa- and transformed it into a viable and globally accepted reality

The notion of partnership is a central one to the ITC. As a joint organisation of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation and as the only UN agency with a specific mandate to work with SMEs on the ground, our very DNA corresponds to linking and engendering expertise to build capacity and market opportunities.

Today ITC will sign two Agreements. One is with DFID to launch the Supporting India’s Trade Preferences for Africa (SITA) project which will focus on enhancing the value of exports from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, to India. This will be the ITC’s largest project to promote trade and investment cooperation. This fits very well with the ITC which has 60% of its activities devoted to Sub-Saharan Africa.

The other will be a Memorandum of Understanding between ITC and CII which will help to steer our collaboration in the future. Both of these offer benefits to the parties involved but none more so that the private sector in the developing countries that will continue to require the tools and the support to internationalise and become more competitive. I am honoured to be able to sign these Agreements today, in India, and in the presence of Ministers and representatives from a number of African countries who are in essence, the most critical clients of the ITC.

Trade between India and Africa has increased by more than 30% annually between 2005 and 2011, and there is the expectation that this could rise to $90 billion by 2015. India has moved from being the 13th largest exporter to Africa in 2001 to become its 5th largest exporter in a decade. Similarly, India was the 14th largest importer from Africa a decade ago and is now its 3rd largest accounting for almost 7 percent of Africa’s total exports. In other words, this partnership is a sound investment which is delivering.

Indian investments in Africa in banking, mining and metals industries, industrial construction projects, telecommunications, information and communication technology (ICT), energy and automobiles facilitates the transfer of technology and employment creation. Africa has much to gain from Indian expertise and knowledge especially in terms of ICT and development of innovative solutions to address private sector priorities. And India has much to gain from increasing their share in the African market. Africa remains poised to be the growth miracle of this century. The statistics increasingly show that with the rise of the middle class in Africa, the youth leaning demography, the technological leap frogging which has been occurring and the tentative steps into global value chains, Africa is the market place- and could be in some respects- the supplier of the future.

And the net gainers of this will be the SMEs. As home to 1.3 million SMEs which generates over 60% of employment and contributes half of its total exports, India understands SMEs. It understands what SMEs need to be able to trade: effective trade facilitation, access to finance, and clear and transparent regulatory frameworks. Africa is a continent of SMEs- both formal and informal. These SMEs are the backbones of the economies and the incubators of innovative thought and solutions. They create platforms for women to step into the world of business and serve as hands on training grounds to the youth who will lead the development of the continent in the future.

There is much that Indian SMEs can share with African SMEs. There are informal partnerships, knowledge sharing, mentoring, transfer of technology, especially in the agri-processing sector, which can help address food security concerns, and many other initiatives which can populate this partnership.

One example of this is in the area of services. Everyone has heard about ‘Incredible India’. Now how can ‘Incredible India’ share its expertise in creating an “Amazing Africa”? Services can spear-head socio-economic development across the African continent, especially in the ICT sector, boosted by India’s Pan-African e-Network Project which offers tele-education and telemedicine solutions to around 50 African countries.

Another area of India’s strength is technology. India is the home of JUGAAD or frugal innovation. India’s sharing of appropriate technologies, JUGAAD or not, is not new in Africa.

All of us have heard of the huge presence of community water-hand-pumps from India that dot the African country side. An Indian-African Partnership underpinned by JUGAAD will result in opportunities arising from adversity: the ability to do more with less; to think and act flexibly to find simple solutions for increasingly complex problems; and most of all practicality that helps eliminate complexity.

The last half century has seen our engagement with Africa grow by leaps and bounds at the policy, institutional, sector and enterprise levels. ITC has assisted countries in the African continent through WTO accession, development of National trade export and sector strategies; building and enhancing trade support institutional infrastructure; and enhancing sector and enterprise competitiveness. We are privileged to be a partner to our African clients. We are privileged to be a partner to our Indian clients. And today, we are privileged to see this partnership under one roof and with one clear focus: trade, private sector development and innovation for growth.

Thank you