If Indian companies do not quickly move into West Africa, Western firms will control the $300-million strong market, says Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister Rui Duarte de Barros.
"Indian companies must know that if they don't grab this opportunity, it will be taken by European and Western companies," de Barros told IANS in an interview during a visit to India for the CII-Exim Bank Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership earlier in March.
He said that European, American and Arab companies were keenly interested in Guinea-Bissau's major produce - cashew - and that Libya had started three processing plants in the country.
"Why can't India also set up production ventures in our country?" he asked.
Cashew accounts for more than 90 percent of Guinea-Bissau's export earnings. Almost the entire crop is exported to India, particularly to Kerala, for processing.
"If you establish a company in Guinea Bissau, you can have free access to a big market that numbers 300 million inhabitants in the case of ECOWAS, and 100 million in the case of the monetary union," said de Barros.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of two regional economic groupings - Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
"Companies from both countries should work together to set up processing factories so that jobs are also created," he said, adding that Guinea Bissau could be the gateway for Indian businesses to West Africa.
Pointing to India's knowledge and human resource base, he said Guinea-Bissau, a country of 1.5 million bordered by Senegal, Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, required knowledge and technology from India.
"We want India to be a part of the development of Guinea-Bissau. I think South-South cooperation is better for both parties."
In return, he said, Guinea-Bissau could offer oil, gas and mineral resources. Guinea-Bissau is discussing oil exploration with India.