President Kovind visits Benin, Gambia and Guinea

The President's visit will further strengthen India’s bilateral ties with the three west African nations, and comes as part of Government of India’s outreach in the continent

August 2, 2019

In October 2018, India had attended a conclave in Nigeria focussed on boosting business to government and business to business interactions between India and 17 west African nations

Africa has offered investment opportunities for Indian firms in sectors such as financial services, energy and power, manufacturing, mining, transport, healthcare and agro processing

Africa is a major export market for a cross-section of Indian products, with Africa-India trade estimated to reach US$120 billion by 2020-21, including export volume of over US$70 billion

President Kovind’s latest visit to the three west African nations saw new agreements related to sectors such as telecoms, renewable energy, traditional medicine and cultural exchange

President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, paid state visits to the west African nations of Benin, Gambia and Guinea, marking a first for an Indian head of state, or government. Following the three-nation trip, President Kovind has visited 10 African countries in just over two years. The trips are meant to boost ties with the continent that shares the same growth potential as well as developmental challenges as India. While India’s bilateral trade with Africa stood at over US$62 billion during 2017-18, the nation has come up as the fifth largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments at over US$54 billion. Meanwhile, India’s development partnership in Africa currently includes around 180 lines of credit worth over US$11 billion in over 40 countries. To improve engagement, the Government of India will open 18 new diplomatic missions over 2018-2021. 

Growing trade ties with Benin

President Kovind reached Cotonou, Benin, on July 28, on the first leg of the three-nation tour, where he was received by his counterpart, President Patrice Talon. There he led delegation-level talks. Speaking on the occasion, President Kovind said Benin and India shared warm and friendly ties, adding that India was keen to strengthen economic partnership with Benin. India has emerged as Benin’s largest trade partner with bilateral trade rising to US$800 million from US$350 million over the last decade. Meanwhile, Indian investments in Benin have covered infrastructure, hospitality and health sectors. While about 100 Indian or Indian-owned companies are currently operating in Benin, more Indian firms are interested to enter the Benin market especially in mining. To further boost economic partnership, India will help set up an Export Credit Agency in Benin. 

President Kovind’s visit saw the signing of the following agreements: 

  1. Cultural exchange programme between the two countries for the years 2019-2023
  2. Preliminary agreement on cooperation in Export Credit and Investment Insurance
  3. Preliminary deal for participation in the e-VBAB Network Project of India’s MEA
  4. Deal on mutual exemption from the visa for Diplomatic, Official/Service Passports

President Kovind also addressed the National Assembly of Benin. The President said that India was committed to support Benin’s growth and development. Amid growing ties, the Indian Government has extended credit lines to Benin to support infrastructure development, including a US$42.6 million line of credit for upgradation of water supply systems in 103 villages in Benin. During the visit, President Kovind announced fresh line of credit worth US$100 million for development projects in Benin. During his visit, Government of India extended e-visa facility to Benin that will give a major boost to bilateral business ties. India has offered to extend free tele-education courses to over 15,000 Beninese students. The two nations have been discussing defence and security ties with India offering further training assistance to Benin to expand its anti-piracy capacity.

India’s development partnership in Africa includes 180 lines of credit, worth over US$11 billion, in more than 40 countries

Development partnership in Gambia

President Kovind reached Gambia on July 30, where he was received by President Adama Barrow, with whom he held one-to-one discussion and delegation-level talks. He also thanked President Barrow for writing a piece, ‘What Mahatma Gandhi means to me’, to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Speaking on the occasion, President said that India was privileged to be a trusted partner for Gambia, where India has helped build the National Assembly Building under concessional financing arrangement. India is among Gambia’s top trading partners with bilateral trade of over US$200 million in 2018-19, representing an increase of nearly 100 per cent over the last two years. India has been collaborating with Gambia in capacity building in manufacturing and technical abilities as well as training in civil, police and judicial services.

During President Kovind’s visit, India offered Gambia a grant of US$500,000 to support skill development and cottage industry. In addition, the two sides signed a preliminary deal on cooperation in the field of traditional systems of medicine and homeopathy. On the visit, President Kovind received instrument of ratification of the International Solar Alliance Framework Agreement from the Gambian President. This will open up new opportunities for collaboration between the two countries in renewable energy and technology. India is already setting up solar projects in select villages in Gambia. President Kovind later addressed the National Assembly of the Gambia and attended the Indian community reception hosted by the Ambassador of India to Senegal and Gambia. Apart from ties in trade, governance and energy, India and Gambia are cooperating in defence in security. 

Guinea gets new Indian embassy

President Kovind landed in Conakry, Guinea, on August 1 in the final leg of his three-nation trip. He was received by the President of Guinea, Alpha Conde. Government of India has opened an Indian Embassy in Conakry in January 2019. During delegation-level talks, President Kovind said that India was keen to upgrade and enhance its political relations with Guinea. The President also said that India is committed to strengthen economic ties with Guinea in support of its National Development Plan. India is already among the top trading partners of Guinea and Indian firms are keen to invest in Guinea, especially in the mining, infrastructure, health and pharmaceutical sectors. India has also provided financial assistance in Guinea in the energy, health and transportation sectors. India extended a new Line of Credit of US$170 million for Conakry Water Supply Project.

The visit witnessed the signing and exchange of the following agreements:

  • Cooperation in the field of traditional system of medicine and homeopathy
  • Agreement for participation in the e-VBAB Network Project of India’s MEA
  • Preliminary agreement on cooperation in the field of renewable energy

Today, India and Africa represent one of the most successful economic partnerships in the world. While, Africa is the continent of the future, India is touted to emerge as a global economic leader. As the world’s major economies reel from rising protectionism, political uncertainties and economic slowdowns, India and Africa can together become the engine of global economic growth. While India can provide capital, skills and technological aid to bolster Africa’s growth, Africa can in turn support India’s growth through mutually beneficial resources, partnerships and easier access to each other’s expanding markets. On the back of this evolving association, there remain options for India and African countries to form free trade deals and set up new trade blocs that can augment the region’s economies. Herein, high-profile visits from both sides will help cement the relations.