India keen to strengthen trade ties with Africa

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India wants to keep building on the good relations it already has with Africa, it seems.

India is keen to strengthen its economic ties with Africa in the form of a potential free trade agreement, according to one of its ministers.

Speaking in a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) webinar, secretary for economic relations in the Ministry of External Affairs Rahul Chhabra said such a pact could be a 'game-changer'.

According to Space in Africa, he explained that India is working on an economic expansion plan with Africa that would be similar to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Negotiations are going on behind the scenes, with a full disclosure of the proposed agreement in a few months' time, he said.

In the same webinar, Mr Chhabra described India as a 'natural fit' to engage in the challenging business environment Africa provides, and explained that it will continue to build upon the principles established in a Ugandan visit by India's prime minister Narendra Modi in 2018.

Should a free trade agreement come to fruition, it would not be the first positive trading relationship established between the two nations.

In 2009, India launched the Pan African e-network Project to provide education and medical services through telecommunication in 48 African nations.

This was concluded in 2017, but a new and similar initiative has since been put in place to continue the work already done.

A fourth India-Africa Forum Summit had also been due to take place this year, but is now scheduled for next year after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

India's bilateral trade with Africa is now estimated to be $69 billion (€58 billion), up an average of 12 per cent a year since it was recorded as a modest $5 billion in 2001.

The Asian nation is no doubt keen to establish trade relationships with countries other than China, with relations between the two having soured significantly in recent months.

India was also listed alongside Brazil and South Africa as one of the G20 nations that will have the harshest road to recovery after the global pandemic, according to Verisk Maplecroft's Recovery Capacity Index.