India a terrific example for Africa: Houngbo

18/03/2010
India a terrific example for Africa: Houngbo

Togo's Prime Minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo says Africa is increasingly looking at India as a knowledge power and believes Indian enterprises should scale up investment in the West African country.
'Africa's expectation is to benefit from other countries in the South. India is a terrific example,' Houngbo, enthused by the success of the India-Africa business conclave here this week, told IANS in an interview.
'India is the world's most populous democracy and has been a leader in frontier areas of knowledge. It's emerging as a knowledge power,' he said when asked about Africa's expectations from the second India-Africa Forum Summit next year.
'Africa can hugely benefit from the Indian experience,' said Houngbo, who became prime minister of Togo, a country of 6.6 million people and the world's fourth largest phosphate producer, in September 2008.
Houngbo, an accountant and business management expert, had earlier served with the UN in key positions as UN deputy secretary general and director of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for Africa.
'India's experience in creating a green revolution could be extremely useful for Africa,' said Houngbo, who was among African leaders invited for the India-Africa business conclave this week that discussed projects worth $11 billion.
'What is very interesting and appealing is the Indian model of cooperation. India is a developing country but has achieved much. Africa can, therefore, learn from the trajectory of development in India and the Indian experience,' he said when asked to compare India's engagement with Africa with those of other countries like China.
'There is tremendous scope in areas of transfer of knowledge and knowhow. There is enough room for a lot of partnerships. We will have to see how different partnerships are complementary,' he said.
India's current bilateral trade with Africa is around $39 billion, compared to China's $109 billion, but New Delhi feels the Indian model is more effective in the long run as it focuses on economic empowerment, skill building and human resource development.
Capturing a new mood of optimism in Togo after the recent elections, Houngbo asked Indian businesses to cash in on new opportunities in his country and offered to host the next business conclave.
'Togo has been facing political problems. We have been going through a period of social and political churning. Now, we are entering a more hopeful period as peace, stability and democratic governance have been restored,' he said.
'The stage is now set for economic rejuvenation and the take-off of development flight,' he said.
'The challenges are huge, but there are also huge opportunities. There is enormous scope for cooperation and investment in areas like agriculture, infrastructure, education, roads, energy, airports and railroad.'
'We are expecting more FDI, specially from countries like India,' he said.
'India's Exim Bank is playing a very constructive role in financing a variety of projects in Africa. Now, Indian banks should think of directly financing projects in Africa,' he said.
Manish Chand / Indo-Asian News Service
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