The Covid-19 pandemic has provided the impetus for a stronger partnership between India and Africa with potential benefits to both as they build back sustainably after the crisis, experts attending the 16th CII-Exim Bank Digital Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership affirmed.
Speaking at the virtual event’s opening, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India External Affairs Minister said the two sides must reinforce collaboration in public health, digital delivery, capacity building, and the green economy – “our goals must be to use these new tools and practices for better delivery on the ground.”
“India has always maintained that progress in the world is contingent on the development of the global south, nowhere is that more evident than in Africa, and that is why we adapt as the most priority to the India-Africa partnership,” Jaishankar said.
The three-day virtual conference, with the theme Harnessing the Africa-India Opportunity- Connect, Create, Collaborate, was organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the India Exim Bank with support from the Ministries of External Affairs and Commerce and Industry. Sessions focused on healthcare including vaccine access and equity, and digitization of the information technology, tourism, and hospitality sectors.
Participants said India and Africa should boost efforts to improve access to medicines, including vaccines and other essential drugs to tackle Covid-19 and future pandemics. Other sectors where there is scope for investment and partnerships include clean energy and digital technology.
During a panel discussion, Solomon Quaynor, African Development Bank Group Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, said an infrastructure-led recovery from the pandemic is critical for Africa; he added that the Bank is ready to partner with Indian firms to transform Africa’s healthcare.
“We are focused on health defense systems, in dialogue with our 81 African and non-African government shareholders, including India,” he said.
The African Development Bank will invest up to $3 billion over the next 30 years to advance the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and the development of healthcare infrastructure across Africa, Quaynor said. The Bank has also been providing expertise to its members on preparing public-private partnerships and to deepen debt capital markets including through investment in pension funds and providing sovereign credit and partial risk guarantees.
“The pandemic has widened Africa’s financing gap to $345 billion and innovative solutions are needed,” Quaynor said. “Africa needs financing to promote the private sector, create jobs, provide social protection for vulnerable groups, and drive inclusive growth.”
Noel Tata, Chair of the CII Africa Committee and Managing Director of Tata International Limited, a conglomerate, called on African leaders to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to spur the development of textile, pharmaceutical, automotive, agro-processing, and information and communication technology supply chains. The AfCFTA, a pan-African economic bloc with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, came into force on January 1, 2021.
“We must continue to focus and identify new cross-border partnership opportunities that are future-proof and directed at the welfare of the 2.5 billion people in India and Africa. AfCFTA will have a positive cascading impact on our bilateral relations and industrial economic partnerships,” Tata said.
One opportunity for Indian investment is special agro-industrial zones (SAPZ), an initiative the Bank is supporting to concentrate agro-processing within areas of high farming potential to boost productivity and competitiveness.