MIL-OSI Asia-Pac: Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs Shri V. Muraleedharan at India-Africa Agriculture and Food Processing Summit (September 14, 2021)

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Source: Government of India

H.E. Mr. Oumar Hussien, Minister of Agriculture, Government of Federal Republic of Ethiopia
H.E. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, Government of Republic of Ghana
H.E. Ms. Angela Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Government of Republic of South Africa
Mr. Dawood Bin Ozair, CEO, Blue Star International
Mr Rajiv Wahi, Chairman, CII India Africa Agriculture Core Group & Chief Executive – International Business, Escorts Ltd.
Mr S Kuppuswamy, Co-Chair, CII Africa Committee & Advisor, Shapoorji
Pallonji Group

Friends,
Namaskaram to all of you.

1. I am delighted to speak at the first edition of India-Africa Agriculture and Food Processing Summit organized by CII. India is still largely an agrarian country and feeds a population of more than 1.3 billion people. The agriculture sector contributes around 18% to the total GDP of India and is the largest employer providing employment to 54% of the total workforce. Similarly, in Africa, two-thirds of the population make a living through agriculture but the sector contributes less than one-third to the continent’s GDP.

2. In the 20th century, the India-Africa partnership further strengthened during their fight against colonialism. The spirit of Non-interference and mutual respect for each other reached new heights in India-Africa relations to fulfill the spirit of “developing together as equals”. This robust and dynamic relationship has been buttressed with the presence of strong and vibrant Indian diaspora, business community and professionals. The last 6 years saw intense political engagement between India and Africa with 34 outgoing visits from India at level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister and more than 100 incoming visits at HoS/HoG and Ministerial level. These have reinforced our ties with Africa. PM Narendra Modi’s top 10 ‘Broad Guiding Principles’ have defined India’s engagement with Africa for the 21st century partnership. One of the principles includes India’s commitment to develop Africa’s Agriculture sector together. To enhance diplomatic engagements with Africa, India already has 40 Resident Missions in Africa and the number will reach 47 after opening 7 new Missions in the near future.

Friends,

3. India’s long standing development partnership with African countries was officially structured under India-Africa Forum Summit in 2008. Three editions of IAFS and unprecedented participation from 41 African HOG/HOS in the IAFS-III in 2015 gave testimony to our growing engagement with Africa. In the run-up to the IAFS-IV, India had planned to hold the India-Africa Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting in mid-March 2020. Unfortunately, due to the Covid pandemic, this had to be postponed. We hope it can be held soon.

4. For the socio-economic development of Africa, Government of India has executed 189 projects in 41 African countries and 77 projects are being implemented under Indian concession loans (Lines of Credits) with a total outlay of over US $ 12 billion. I am happy to mention here that India has extended more than US$ 6 billion concessional loan to African countries in agriculture and allied sectors. India offers LoCs for projects as varied as acquisition of tractors, harvesters, agricultural processing equipment; farm mechanization; setting up plantation projects, food processing plants; irrigation network etc.. I would like to highlight that under LoC, India has successfully implemented projects such as milk processing plant in Mauritania, tractor assembly plant in Benin, revitalization of textile mill in Kenya, sugar plants in Ghana & Ethiopia and setting up of the agri related institutions like the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Technology and Biotechnology Park in Cote d’Ivoire.

5. India has also extended support for the development of cotton sector in 11 African countries (i.e. Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Togo, Zambia and Tanzania) where India has been providing cotton technical assistance, support and cooperation.

6. For capacity building among African rural youth, India has established 8 vocational training centers, 7 IT centres, a Centre for Geo-informatics Applications in Rural Development (CGARD, Madagascar), upgraded a technology center and several other capacity building Institutions in Africa under grant assistance. India has been at the fore front to provide capacity building and training to African candidates under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme offering them courses on applications of biotechnology and its regulation. In the third IAFS held in 2015, India offered 50,000 educational/training slots including special slots for training in Agriculture and Food processing sectors. India believes that the best partnership is to develop human capital and institutions; that equip and empower a nation to shoulder the responsibility on its own and ensure growth. It is worth mentioning that India is one of the most sought after destination for African students for pursuing higher studies. There are more than 24,000 students from Africa studying in India.

Friends,

7. India always stands ready to share experience and expertise of flagship programmes to African partners such as ‘Soil Health Card scheme’, ‘Per Drop More Crop’ for efficient use of soil and water in agriculture production. Projects such as establishment of India-Africa Regional Soil Water and Tissue Testing Laboratories in countries of Africa are under implementation at various stages.

8. India’s institutional support through research and development initiatives, and marketing support are areas which can prove useful for African economies. To enhance capacity in the areas of agro-financing and entrepreneurship development for African countries, Government of India signed an MoU with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Consultancy Service (NABCONS) for setting up India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development (IAIARD) in Malawi. IAIARD would be a Pan-African Institute wherein African youth will receive training to develop and build their capacity in the areas of micro-financing and agro-financing, among others. I would like to recall that the 52nd Annual General Meeting of African Development Bank with theme of “Transforming Agriculture for Wealth Creation in Africa” held in Gadhinagar, Gujarat in 2017, contributed to deepening our relations, to achieve our shared goal of rural and agricultural transformation.

9. Food Security is a common thread which binds both India and Africa. Under humanitarian assistance, India has donated food aid worth of US $ 15.8 million to various African countries to support their fight against hunger and poverty. India has entered into agreements with Malawi and Mozambique for imports of pulses to meet growing domestic demands. Currently, we are negotiating MoUs with some other African countries for import of pulses. Africa has significant land to offer for production of various products, and India would like to explore the opportunity to invest overseas and produce crops, while creating large scale employment, generating income, and even allow the economy to move up the value chain through creation of agro-processing facilities. I understand that the Indian private sector has already started investing in this field in several African countries. This has not only created jobs but also contributed towards the food/agri products availability and boosted exports from these countries.

10. On the trade and economic front, India is the fourth largest trading partner for Africa registering US$ 69.7 billion trade with Africa during 2018-19 and has become the fifth largest investor in Africa with its cumulative investment at US$ 70.7 billion. The Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme announced by India has benefited African nations by extending duty free access to 98.2 per cent of India’s total tariff lines. With a collective GDP of over US$ 2.4 trillion and a population of more than 1.3 billion, Africa offers a great market to rising economies like India. Two indicators from the World bank underline the continent’s promising future. First, of the 10 fastest growing economies in the World in 2018, six were in Africa. Second, in the world Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Index, five of the 10 most improved countries were in Africa.

11. African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which has come into force from 01 January 2021 is expected to play a greater role on pan African agriculture development. It will help Africa realize its full potential, as per their priorities in agri-business to attain self sufficiency in food security. We may explore the possibility of increasing our economic & commercial ties with Africa making use of the available opportunities under the AfCFTA.

12. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the growth of the world including the African countries. As an agriculture and resource wealthy continent, Africa has the potential to turn this into an opportunity by optimal utilization of its potential to alleviate its poverty situation. We will be happy to partner with Africa in this venture.

Friends,

13. In conclusion, I commend CII for the initiative in organising this Summit. I am confident that this Summit will strengthen the India-Africa co-operation in agri business sector further. I also thank the Hon’ble Ministers of Agriculture from Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa for taking time and joining this Summit.

Thank you.

New Delhi
September 14, 2021

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