Moving ahead: SITA implementation to boost India-East Africa trade, investment
Setting out the roadmap and strategies for the first year of the implementation of the Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project was the key objective of the fourth Partnership Platform meeting held on 19-20 March 2015 in New Delhi.
The meeting marked the successful closure of the design phase of the project, which started in March 2014 and included consultations involving over 200 stakeholders. This South-South trade and investment promotion project targets growth in priority sectors including spices and essential oils, sunflower oil, pulses, leather, coffee, cotton/textile/apparel, business process outsourcing and information technology-enabled services (BPO-ITES), as well as other emerging sectors in the five East African countries. The project is implemented by the International Trade Centre and supported by the Government of United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
Commenting on the progress of the project, Tamar Bello, Head of the Global Partnerships Team, DFID India, said: ‘We started with nothing, and we are here today – the progress has been huge. Designing a project starting from the scratch, knowing only a list of countries to work in, but not knowing the sectors to focus on or the specific activities to be undertaken, to a place where work could commence immediately following the roll-out, is exciting. We are indebted to ITC, the Government of India and all the partners who worked through the partnership platforms to make this a reality.’
‘We hope the programme, including the lessons learned, will provide a role model for future trade development projects by DFID,’ she added.
Highlights of the fourth Partnership Platform meeting
As SITA commenced the implementation phase, government representatives, institutional stakeholders and business leaders from the five SITA beneficiary countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania – as well as India and the ITC-SITA implementation task teams discussed ways of moving forward with a concrete work and activity plan for the first year. The activity plan informed the participants on the value chain exercises that will be undertaken during the first two quarters and the specific country-wise and sector-wise activities to be completed over the year.
The sessions also facilitated an exchange between Indian and the East African companies and associations in each of the selected sectors on opportunities and expected challenges in promoting trade and investment.
‘Human resources – the lack of skilled human capital – especially at middle level in both government and business organizations to make informed decisions could be a major challenge for a faster and effective implementation of the project,’ participants said.
‘And, that is an area where ITC could make effective and meaningful intervention as the project implementation progresses,’ said Jaswinder Singh Bedi of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.
Day two of the event focused on the effective utilization of India’s Duty Free Trade Preference (DFTP) scheme and the possibilities of integrating African least developed countries into India’s manufacturing value chain to enhance trade and investment between India and the five SITA countries. The SITA beneficiary countries’ perspective on the scheme was explored by way of the Tanzanian experience – a key initiator in utilizing the benefits of the scheme.
‘India’s DFTP scheme should go beyond the trade preferences already provided and needs to be improved with inputs from the East African states and stakeholders,’ said Adam Zuku, Director Industry Development, Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.
‘Regional cumulation within the East African partner states is imperative to improve trade and investment in the region and will enable better utilization of the scheme,’ said James Shimbe, Director of Regulatory Services, Tanzanian Cotton Board.
During the meeting, participants also deliberated on the priorities of the Indian industry to spur investment in Africa.
‘The day regional integration and uniform policy regime across the East African states becomes a reality, Kirloskar will have a manufacturing facility in one of the SITA beneficiary countries,’ said Shipra Tripathi, Vice President and Head, Corporate Global Marketing and Communication, Kirloskar Brothers Limited.
Setting the course for project implementation
On forging ahead with the implementation of the project, ITC Executive Director Arancha González said: ‘SITA will devise a step-by-step process for the businesses to gain share in the best markets with competitive products.’
She added: ‘SITA will address the strengthening of trade support institution infrastructure in East African countries through peer learning, adoption of best practices, networking and capacity building. It will also offer options for enabling policy that improves the business environment across the SITA countries and solutions for promotion of investments from India to East Africa.’
‘Within the SITA project framework, Indian and East African business should consider possibilities of mutual investment and work jointly towards developing not just value-added products but more complex products and services, such as the medical services, which presents real transformative impact,’ said Yaduvendra Mathur, Chairman and Managing Director, Export-Import Bank of India.
Sumanta Chaudhuri, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, Government of India, added: ‘Looking at ways to effectively integrate the objectives and strategies of the SITA project with the Government of India’s fundamental vision for India-Africa trade, as well as with the existing structures for trade and investment in the five Eastern African countries, are aspects to be well considered for the sustainability and success of the project.
‘It remains a collective challenge to ensure that the established partnerships sustain and strengthen as the SITA platform moves into more concrete action to help businesses and beneficiaries reap multiple benefits over the coming years.’
SITA is designed to enhance India-East Africa trade and investment through an intervention approach that will lead to improved productive capacities in East Africa. Over the course of its implementation, SITA will explore possibilities and evolve to raise its sights towards wider horizons in meeting the ultimate objective of creating income and employment opportunities in East Africa.