Vice President Salous Chilima has called for more trade and investment from India saying Africa offers substantial untapped market and opportunities for business and development partnership.
Chilima said this on Sunday in India in his inaugural speech during the official opening of the 13th Confederation for Indian Industry (CII) EXIM Bank conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership.
The conclave is is taking place in New Dehli from 25th-27 March under the theme " Partners in Development, Building New Synergies".
He said the conclave is one way of boosting Africa-India trade, investment, cultural and social development partnership to achieve regional economic development.
"Africa and India share similar economic history as poor economies but over the years India has made tremendous progress which offers Africa not only motivation but also source of investment capital," he said.
The Veep said Africa with a population of 1.2 billion has collective economy of US$2.5 trillion while India with a population of 1.3 billion has economy of US$2.3 trillion, translating into a combined market of US$5 trillion.
" This is evidence that there is a lot that our partnership can achieve. But to achieve a lot, we need to economically empower the combined 2.5 billion population so that the high population is not a burden to government's service delivery capacity but an opportunity for markets and investment." he said.
Chilima also said India is an important source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa with FDI from India to Africa amounting to USD17 billion between 2010 and 2015.
On the other hand, India remains a major destination of African outward investment with Mauritius leading the way as a source of FDI to India.
On trade, the Veep said India has remained an important trade partner for Africa for many years, saying since 2010 Africa's exports to India have increased by 28 per cent while imports from India have increased by 93 per cent.
Additionally, Africa's exports to India are projected to grow from USD27 billion in 2016 to over USD50 billion in 2022.
He said apart from regional trade agreements, many African countries enjoy preferential market access to USA's USD 18.5 trillion through African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), European Union's USD 16.5 trillion through Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative and China's USD 10.8 trillion.
" For a continent of 54 countries, I would like to challenge my fellow African delegates that the projected USD 50 billion should be exceeded by 2022," he said.
Chilima also said India continues to contribute heavily to social development in Africa through capacity building, training, and provision of grants, concessional credits and lines of credit.
The veep said since the first India-Africa Forum Summit in 2011 more than 25,000 scholarships have been utilized by Africans under various programs mostly the India Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
" Africans have been trained in areas such as agriculture, information technology, renewable energy and small and medium enterprise development, among others," he said.
Chilima however bemoaned that the India-Africa trade gap remains wide with Africa continuing to export raw products with minimal value addition.
He said some of the factors hindering India-Africa trade include limited access of Indian buyers and African exporters, lack of access to trade finance, transport and logistics problems and informal controls in the form of non-tariff barriers.
Chilima further said main challenges hampering the growth of India-Africa investment relate to problems in securing capital and absence of bilateral investment agreements.
To this end, Chilima implored delegates from Africa to use the conclave as an ample opportunity to secure capital for investment.
"I refuse to believe that Africa is an island of poverty in a global sea of prosperity. Let us use opportunities like the conclave to attract investors to our respective countries as we all yearn to transform and end poverty in our countries".
He called for unity among African countries, saying since they are targeting the same investors, there was need to strongly complement and support one another rather than work against each other.
" It is only in unity and collaboration where we can achieve shared breakthroughs" he emphasized.
The Veep specifically urged Malawi to seize the many trade and investment opportunities offered by India and jump on the band wagon.
He commended the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), EXIM Bank and the Indian government for organising the forum, saying the conclave has become a flagship event for promoting entrepreneurship, business and enhancing Africa-India investment and trade opportunities.
Chilima is expected to return home Thursday after undertaking other official engagements apart from the conclave.
The Malawi delegation includes Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism Henry Mussa and Minister of Foreign Affairs Emmanuel Fabiano, government officials as well as private business sector delegates.