Africa seeks agricultural transformation with India's help
With a vast untapped potential in agriculture, African countries are keen to gain from India's experiences, including the "green revolution", to bring about a transformation and enable their 420 million poor people to come out of poverty.
Africa is estimated to have 65 percent of world's uncultivated land but only about 10 percent of global food output.
African Development Bank (AfDB) officials said after their annual meeting here last week that its focus on "transforming agriculture to create wealth" has sparked interest among a vast section, including youth, researchers and the private sector to treat agriculture as a business.
The meeting boosted Africa's partnership with India in agriculture as also in several other areas, including infrastructure, electricity generation, skill development and healthcare.
Officials said that AfDB will invest $24 billion in African agriculture in the next 10 years and the sector is estimated to generate $1 trillion in business by 2030.
Chiji Ojukwu, Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department, AfDB, said that India experienced a "green revolution" using improved seed varieties and best agronomic practices, and was able to lift large sections of its population out of poverty -- and Africa has a lot to learn from India in order to achieve similar success.
"We can leapfrog, taking advantage of the successes of India, to borrow their technologies and to bring Indian experts to assist Africa," Ojukwu said.
He said India has made advances in irrigation solutions, milk production, cooling and processing, in solar for generating power for agriculture and Information and Communication Technology.
"African companies and governments can collaborate with Indian agricultural systems and companies to bring these experiences to Africa, to help Africa achieve its agricultural transformation, and lift its 420 million that live on less than $1.25 a day out of poverty," he said.
Indian officials said that AfDB's five key priority areas -- Light Up and Power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa and Improve quality of life for the people of Africa -- had similarity to some of the thrust areas of the Narendra Modi government.
They said that Industrialised Africa is similar to the 'Make in India' initiative and Light Up and Power Africa to the government's goal of electricity for all and its efforts to boost renewable energy.
They said that Africa and India had several commonalities in terms of a shared history, challenges as also demographics, with youth comprising over 60 percent of the population.
Indian companies have been investing in Africa in areas such as telecommunications, hydrocarbon exploration, IT, education, water treatment, petroleum refining, retail, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, coal, automobiles, floriculture and engineering.
India is also pursuing long-term arrangements for supply of agricultural products, specially pulses. Its cooperation with Africa is demand-driven and free of conditions.
Former Foreign Secretary Shashank said India should move much more strongly in Africa.
"India is seen as an alternative to Chinese investment and the kind of conditionalities being imposed on African countries either by the international institutions or Western countries," Shashank, who was at the conference, told IANS.
He said India can increase its exports to African countries.
"In many cases, we find that our exports are not that competitive but in Africa we can try to make our exports more competitive. Already our bilateral rade has gone fairly high," he said.
Africa-India trade was estimated at $56 billion in 2015-16, accounting for about 10 percent of India's total trade.
Shahank said it was "very significant" that the AfDB meeting was held in India for the first time. The five-day annual meeting of AfDB was attended by 54 African members and 27 non-regional member-countries of the organisation. It came almost 18 months after India hosted the third India Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi which was attended by all 54 African countries.
He said it will also help neutralise any negative perception about isolated incidents that had cropped up between the African students in India and the local community.
He also welcomed the Asia-Africa corridor supported by India and Japan, saying the two countries can do quite well in Africa by going together.
"India has that political acceptability, goodwill is there. India goes there, people are happy. Japan's technology, its finances, Indian fiances and technology and its technical expertise, if they go together, they can do quite well in Africa," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his inaugural address, had said that Africa was a top priority for his government's foreign and economic policy.