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3rd India-Africa trade meet opens in SA
October 1, 2013, 1:50 pm

China turned Africa's largest trade partner in 2009 [Getty Images]

India-Africa trade reached $70 billion last year [Getty Images]

South Africa’s Trade and Industry Director General Lionel October said South Africa’s membership in the BRICS bloc presented enormous opportunities for Africa.

The third Africa-India Trade Ministers’ Meeting organised by the African Union Commission is currently underway in Johannesburg.

“We therefore use platforms like this trade ministers’ meeting to further elevate the interests of Africa in BRICS.  In essence, South Africa carries the interests of Africa into the BRICS dynamics… as [there are] opportunities [for BRICS] in Africa” said October.

“We have a massive population and Africa is becoming a big middle class continent, and India is interested in trading with us” added the director general.

Food security, trade and African infrastructure are expected to be key topics of discussion.

India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will lead a high-powered Indian delegation to the meet.

Sharma and leaders of African nations would discuss ways to reinvigorate the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in the Bali Ministerial Conference, a ministry official said in New Delhi earlier.

“The trade ministers shall exchange views on the ongoing negotiations, the issues on the agenda of the Ministerial Conference and how to safeguard the interests of developing nations,” the official said.

“For countries of Asia and Africa, food security is crucial. Currently, there is very little in the existing trade rules to squarely address the issue. Updation of rules of Agreement on Agriculture would greatly help in carrying out these operations without defaulting on international commitments,” the official added.

India-Africa trade reached $70 billion last year and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2015.

India is expected to stress on accelerating the process on the proposed free trade pact with the 19-nation Common Market For Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

With India’s increasing importance in the global economy, Africa stands to benefit immensely from that country’s growth, October said on Tuesday.

“India is definitely growing. We want that same trend to spread throughout the continent,” October was quoted by state media.

India has emerged as the fastest growing export market for Africa, growing by 41.8 per cent, while China grew by 28 per cent, according to a report released jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and WTO.

Indian companies have invested over $50 billion in the continent and the country is also the fourth largest investor in South Africa.

October noted that India was becoming quite a big investor in South Africa, citing Indian influence in the pharmaceutical sector and lately the automobile industry.

Trade ministers from India, Nigeria, Benin, Libya, Senegal, Ethiopia as well as ministers from most SADC countries are attending the meet.

 Source: Agencies

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