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Africa Calls for Indian Investment Throughout Continent


African leaders have made a strong pitch for investment in their resource-rich continent with Indian business leaders. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi, where senior leaders of 14 countries attended an India-Africa summit recently.

Tanzanian president, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, told Indian business leaders that the perception of Africa is often colored by turmoil in a handful of countries such as Somalia and Darfur, although the continent's economy is growing strongly.

"Besides those two or three isolated cases, the rest of Africa is stable, the economy is doing well, the policies are right, the market for Africa is huge, over 800 million people with a sizeable middle class," he said.

Indian companies are no stranger to Africa. From Botswana to Nigeria, they are involved in sectors ranging from mining and manufacturing, to communications and horticulture. In recent years, Indian oil companies have clinched deals in Sudan, Kenya, Libya and Nigeria. Two-way trade now totals $25 billion.

But both India and Africa agree that is far below potential.

Africa wants Indian businesses to establish manufacturing units, so that it can process its rich resources such as minerals, rather than export them as raw materials. It needs infrastructure such as roads and railways so that it can transport goods easily within the region. It wants help in developing human resources and its health sector.

African leaders also want farm technology from India. The continent has rich soil and water resources - but many countries are plagued by food shortages.

Tanzanian President Kikwete, who is also the head of the African Union, says Africa has the potential to turn into the world's breadbasket.

"Currently Africa's agriculture is peasant agriculture, traditional, plagued with low levels of production," he added. "If we are able to increase productivity in African agriculture, Africa would not only be able to feed itself, but have huge surpluses to sell to the world. India has the technology, has the skills, which if made available to Africa certainly it will help implement the African Green Revolution."

African leaders say investors will not be disappointed, and point to a recent World Bank report, which said many African countries are emerging as top reformers.

With growth in many Western countries slowing down, Indian businesses say they are ready to increase their footprint across Africa.

But analysts say, India will have to ensure it is not left far behind by China. Beijing's trade with Africa is more than double that of India's, and Chinese companies have made rapid inroads into the continent in the last decade.

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