Agriculture, Food Security key to cementing Indo-African ties: Jaitley

Gandhinagar (Gujarat)[India], May 23 : With the changing global landscape for agriculture and food security, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that India and Africa can emerge as key partners in these areas.

Addressing the inaugural session of the African Development Bank's (ADB) 52nd Annual Meeting here, Jaitley highlighted some of the key features that have triggered growth in Africa to be urbanisation and growth of the middle class, adding that the 21st century belongs equally to Asia and Africa.

"Africa's growth rate has risen from 2.2 percent in 2016 to 3.4 in the current year. Along with an increase in urbanisation and growth of the middle class, the spending power of the people has also increased, thus making Africa more vibrant," he said.

"With regards to agriculture, Africa is home to 60 percent of total arable land, but supports only 10 percent of the global output.

India on the other hand supports 17 percent of the output with just 2 percent land. This is an area of potential we believe has yet to be discovered," added Jaitley. India-Africa relations date back to 1983, when India joined the African Development Fund (ADF). Subsequently, in 1984, India joined the ADB. The relations between India and Africa, as Jaitley said, were built around contributing to general capital increase, ADF replenishment, bilateral trust fund and multilateral debt reduction.

"In the 14th cycle of ADF replenishment, India contributed USD 14.5 million each as grant and bridge loan, the first of its kind on Asian soil," said Jaitley.

Drawing upon the similarity of initiatives launched in the two nations, Jaitley asserted that India's keen interest in collaborating with Africa has been projected through the three India-Africa forum summits held last in 2015, aiming to shape a common 'man-driven' future devoid of conditionality.

"Like 'Make in India'. Africa has 'Industrialise Africa'. There are many other such initiatives. The concessional line of credit worth USD 10 billion proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the third Indo-African summit will be detrimental for agriculture, health, education and manufacturing sector," said Jaitley.

Analysing the current growth trend of the global economy, Jaitley said economic activities are now picking up, with cyclical recovery of manufacture, trade and investment.

Growth rate was recorded at 3.1 percent in 2016 and 3.5 percent in 2017, with 3.6 percent projected for 2018.

However, Jaitley highlighted the danger of fritting away gains of globalisation. "I recently attended the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World bank. There is an increasing possibility of disruption in global economy due to the inward looking policies of some advanced countries," he said.

However, according to Jaitley, India has secured a bright spot on the global front, with a growth rate 7.2 percent in 2017 and 7.7 percent projected for 2018 by the IMF in January 2017.

"We have introduced a slew of reforms, the most important one being the largest currency reform ever, which will take India on the pathway of a cashless economy.

Additionally, there is increased tax compliance, liberalization of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policies, introduction of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill and measures to tackle counterfeit currency threats," asserted Jaitley.

Source: ANI