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India, West African Countries Explore Trade Opportunities - 2004-03-07

India and eight West African countries are planning to step-up trade and business ties.

India has promised cheap loans worth $500 million to eight West African nations, along with technical expertise to help them develop their economies.

Several of these countries, including Ghana, Mali, Senegal and the Ivory Coast, are rich in natural resources, including minerals. The other countries hoping to boost trade ties are Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Bissau.

Shipra Sharma at the Confederation of Indian Industry says African countries want to do business with India because it can provide technologies that are cheaper and more relevant than those from the developed world.

"The technologies which we can provide for them are actually grass root level, which is where they are right now…," she said. "As of today, they are importing most of their equipment from Europe, which turns out to be very expensive, because Europe no longer has technologies which are suitable to the West African requirement."

Most of the African countries want joint ventures with India for mineral exploration, technology to improve food grain production, and agro processing plants.

Ghana, for example, wants factories to process its cocoa crop, much of which is currently sold as cocoa beans. Chad has irrigated land, but needs farm equipment and technologies to tap its potential.

Indian scientists and technicians will also help develop the pharmaceutical and health care industries, and information technology and telecommunications.

Ms. Sharma says India's trade with this region is negligible at present, but the potential for cooperation is vast.

"There is immense potential. Raw material is in abundance, and training and capacity building from India's side is a big possibility," she said.

Ms. Sharma says closer cooperation with West Africa will also give Indian business an opening to these markets for their manufactured goods.