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Energy puts Africa on front burner for India

According to reports, the significance of ties between India and Africa has been gaining greater strategic prominence due to India’s interest in the energy sector in the region.

Although West Asia has been India’s primary source of energy, the growing Indian demand for energy resources cannot be secured without diversification and Africa, with approximately 9% of the world’s proven oil and gas deposits.

At the 9th three-day CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership in New Delhi, the largest ever India-Africa business meet with a total of 900 overseas delegates, including 39 MPs, are collectively seeking ways to step up the cooperation in the development of green energy, such as, solar, wind, geo-thermal, biomass, etc.

India and Africa have witnessed a five-fold increase in their trade volume in the past seven years at $65 billion and both sides are poised to scale it up further, said Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur here Monday.

At the conclave, Cameroon is the guest country and Ethiopia the focus country and are expected to discuss 475 projects close to $70 billion.

While both sides are cooperating in technology transfer, economic cooperation and capacity building, the aim of the conclave is aimed at developing strategies that would further enhance mutually beneficial trade & investment, and understand the opportunities and challenges being faced by India and Africa in exploration and utilization of hydrocarbon resources.

According to CII officials, energy security is a national imperative for India, and a strong partnership with Africa must be viewed as essential to securing India’s energy needs. Indian public and private sector companies have made inroads into mainly francophone Africa in the petroleum and natural gas sector, with Nigeria being India’s primary source of oil and gas in Africa. Algeria, Angola, and Sudan are also significant partners in the energy sector.

At such trying times where the world economy is facing a sever crisis, owing to the unprecedented downgrade of the US economy, the unabated Euro-debt crisis and fears of rising inflation consequently leading to slowdown in emerging economies, it would be prudent to ignore the hydrocarbon space and treat it like a zero-sum game.

With a view to achieving India’s long term energy security needs and open up a truly global, integrated and competitive energy market, it is the need of the hour to build a long standing partnership with the oil-rich African nations.

Today, more than one-fifth (21.5 per cent) of India’s crude oil imports are from the major suppliers like Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon Equatorial Guinea and Sudan.

India has extended 150 Lines of Credit worth $5.2 billion to African countries. Among the projects India is involved in Africa are a rural electrification plant at Burkina Faso, cassava plantation in Cameroon, a cement plant in Djibouti. And also, been providing assistance to African countries under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, which is a manifestation of South South cooperation, MEA offcials said.

The 21st century has seen the African continent gain significant salience in Indian foreign policy. Elements of pragmatism have been mixed into the earlier idealistic policy and the factors such as energy, uranium, and other resources are driving India’s interest in ties with Africa.

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