India provides soft loans to West African businesses

Indian business interest to invest in the region increased following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Ecowas and the Indian government in  2008, Alfred Braimah, director of private sector development, Ecowas, told IANS here.

"Following the MoU, many establishments from India have come to set up businesses in various countries across the West Africa region," Braimah said.

He was speaking on the fringes of the formal launch of an initiative to implement a poverty reduction strategy in West Africa.

Ecowas is a regional group of 15 countries, founded in 1975. Its mission is to promote economic integration in "all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters."

Braimah could not tell exactly how many businesses had been set up because "it takes time for projects to finally become operational from the time they are conceived".

He said Ecowas is engaged in an "in-country facilitation to be able to identify the main areas for cooperation".

"However, we want to pursue more cooperation in joint business investments in pharmaceuticals, technology and agriculture which are areas where India has a strong advantage," he added.

In order to sell the region to Indian businesses, he said, a forum was organised jointly with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)  in Lagos, Nigeria, last year.

"The chamber has taken up the role of coordinating activities between Ecowas and businesses in their country," Braimah added.

"We in Ecowas have followed up this forum with visits to India in order to cement all that we have started to build a strong economic relationship between countries in the region and India."

He said the cooperation was centred on the economic, political and social sectors of both India and the countries in the Ecowas region, adding "our emphasis has however been in the area of business promotion".

He was hopeful that the initiative that Ecowas has started would help increase Indian investments in the region through foreign direct investment (FDI).

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