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'Engineering exporters to tap new markets in Africa'

In view of the sharp drop in Indian engineering exports, exporters are seeking new markets in Africa to tide over the impact of global economic slowdown.

According to a commerce ministry release Tuesday, the year-on-year fall of 9.25 percent in engineering exports in June, despite rupee depreciation by about the same ratio, has put the focus on how India and Africa can help each other beat the slowdown in the western and European markets.

At a second interactive round table conference Tuesday with over 30 diplomats of key African countries, senior government and Engineering Exports Promotion Council India (EEPC) officials discussed different challenges they are facing in doing business in Africa.

"Exporters are facing challenges like access to market, knowledge about the African markets and logistical and transport related issues," said EEPC Chairman Aman Chadha.

Out of the 33 engineering panels, 19 engineering panels recorded negative growth in June 2013, as opposed to 16 such panels in May 2013, Chadha said.

Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry D.S. Dhesi said a huge potential exists between the regions to enhance trade and investment.

"We are witnessing constant growth in trade. Last two years were not good for global trade but, bucking the global trend, trade between India and Africa is growing. Engineering exporters should try to tap the African region to enhance shipments," Dhesi said.

India-Africa trade has increased two-fold in five years to $65 billion in 2012 from $34 billion in 2008. Both the sides have targeted it to reach $100 billion by 2015.

EEPC has sought help of the commerce and external affairs ministries to better tap the African market.

To attract foreign buyers, EEPC is organising an India Engineering Sourcing Show in Mumbai in January 2014, where 400 Indian exhibitors are expected to participate besides 100 international exhibitors and 1,000 foreign delegates.

A recent study by the Confederation of Indian Industry and World Trade Organisation (WTO) - "India-Africa: South-South Trade and Investment for Development" - found poor infrastructure facilities and lack of financing are constraints in the way of expanded business and investment ties between India and Africa.

Access to Indian buyers and trade finance emerges as major concerns for African traders, while transport and logistics costs and poor business environments are cited as major difficulties by Indian traders.