The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area in the coming months would yet again put East Africa into the spotlight and make it a launch pad for Indian companies to tap into a large integrated market with a young and upwardly mobile population said Mr Rahul Chhabra , High Commissioner of India to Kenya & Secretary (ER) Designate, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India while delivering the keynote address at the CII – Exim Bank webinar on ‘India – East Africa Economic Update’. India contributes a significant amount to East Africa’s imports and also has several investments in the region. While COVID-19 has impacted East Africa in terms of foreign reserves, cross-border trade and movement, measures are being taken by East African Governments to tackle the situation, he added.
Speaking on the opportunities for the Indian Industry in the hospitality sector, Mr Chhabra said that as tourism has been badly hit in East African countries such as Kenya, now is the right time to invest in properties and tourism related infrastructure as the boom will return. He also mentioned that with the push of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) there are projects worth billions of dollars coming into the region.
Mr P Harish, Additional Secretary (ER), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, while speaking at the webinar said that India is keen to partner with East Africa especially in agriculture - to help it tackle food shortages and Digital services like E-governance, Fintech and Biometric services. The Covid 19 pandemic also provides an opportunity for expansion of existing ties in sectors such a healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
Dr Tizita Mulugeta, Ambassador of Ethiopia to India mentioned that the most important task in East Africa at the moment was to “save lives and build economic resilience” and foreign investment in these key sectors would be the way forward. Some of the Governments have announced liquidity stimulus to help small and medium scale businesses to recover, as well as sector specific tax holidays and exemptions are being provided to foreign investors, she added.
Other speakers who shared their perspective at the session included Mr Rahul Sikka, Head - PT & D Africa, Larsen & Toubro Ltd; Mr Gagan Santosh Gupta, Chairman Kamal Steel Limited, Tanzania and Mr Geoffrey Kamanzi from East African Business Council.
The webinar saw the participation of more than 200 delegates from across India and Africa, discussing the current situation in the region and way forward.
16 May 2020