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India's footprint grows in West Africa

India's footprint is growing in West Africa, especially in two main markets in the region, Nigeria and Ghana, with increased trade across sectors and cooperation in various other fields.

India is helping Nigeria revitalise its Defence Industries Corporation through a public-private partnership programme, according to Mahesh Sachdev, Indian High Commissioner in Abuja.

India is also assisting Nigeria in its fight against terror by sharing specialised training, equipment, strategy and intelligence. The co-operation is under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on defence that the two countries signed in 2007.

Sachdev said that India was ready to help Nigeria develop its defence sector.

"We have the experience, and we are ready to share that experience with Nigeria, but you decide in what areas our experience is relevant to you, and in what areas we can be of help," Sachdev told IANS, adding that Nigeria is a sovereign country and it should, therefore, decide on which direction to go.

In Ghana, Food and Agriculture Minister Kwesi Ahwoi said that his government was negotiating with India on financing the construction of a fish processing plant in Elmina, in the country's central region.

In July this year, the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) will hold a three-day 'India Show' in Accra. The trade show would provide a platform for Indian firms and their Ghanaian counterparts to network with key stakeholders like policymakers, captains of industry, financial institutions and business solutions providers.

The show is an initiative that promotes 'Brand India' and Indian industry overseas, especially in developing and developed countries with Indian population and demand for Indian products and technologies.

India's High Commissioner to Ghana, Rajinder Bhagat, said that the show is expected to attract over 100 Indian companies from agriculture, construction, consumer durables, pharmaceuticals and textiles, among others. In addition, he said, the show would strengthen corporate ties between West Africa and India.

With these various engagements, two-way trade in the region has shot up considerably in volume and value.

Trade between Nigeria and India was valued at USD16.4 billion in 2011. According to the India High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria's exports to India stood at USD12.4 billion in 2011, representing a 71 percent increase over the previous year, while India's exports to Nigeria grew by 58 percent to USD22 billion.

Adil Zaidi of Ernst & Young told a workshop in Abuja that the trade with India could improve further if Nigeria could formulate good policies for business development.

Indian investors, he said, would be able to increase trade between the two countries by investing in power generation and transmission, transportation, water, petroleum, renewable energy and healthcare.