, BRAZZAVILLE, April 1 – Business and political leaders have turned to India for inspiration on economic development, said participants at a meeting of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).
"India, a nation of more than one billion people, has managed in 50 years to feed its entire population," the Republic of Congo\’s Trade Minister Jeanne Dambenzet told AFP.
"For our sub-region, that\’s a model to study and to understand," he added.
Dambenzet was speaking after two days of talks in Brazzaville between Indian officials and businessmen and politicians from the six nations of CEMAC.
"India has the advantage of having simple technologies that you could call village technology, suitable for our populations," she said. "There\’s no reason to go seeking advanced technology that could cause problems."
Dabmbenzet\’s ideas were shared by several of the region\’s business and political leaders who attended the forum on Monday and Tuesday.
The meeting, organised to exchange ideas about investment opportunities and build economic links between India and the CEMAC states, was organised by the Development Bank of Central African States (BDEAC) and the Indian government.
CEMAC\’S member countries have very different profiles. They range from oil-producing countries such as Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to the desperately poor, landlocked Central African Republic.
But the India-CEMAC partnership was still perfectly feasible, said BDEAC chairman Anicet Georges Dologuele.
With a population estimated at between 38 and 40 million, CEMAC "really is an economic bloc that\’s not perfect but steadily getting better," said Dologuele.
Serge Singha-Bengba, who runs several companies in the CAR, said a good partnership with India could "only be win-win if an emphasis is put on training. Otherwise we will find ourselves in a partnership where the purchaser wins."
Trade between central Africa and India is on the increase, said the organisers of the forum. Between 2006 and 2007, central African exports went up by 26 percent and imports increased by 41 percent.
But while they released the statistics, the organisers did not disclose the financial value of the trade.
"India seems well placed to accompany central Africa towards the goals we have set ourselves to achieve by 2025," said BDEAC\’s director of studies and finance projects, Beringar Ndomnabaye.
These goals include reducing the number of people living below the poverty line from the current 53 percent to 25 percent, and increasing economic growth to an annual average of 11 percent.
In 2008, it was 4.8 percent in a region where the economy is based mainly on mineral and timber resources.
"Our companies haven\’t come simply to make money in Africa," Pradeep Kumar Chaudhery, secretary general of the Indian trade ministry said.
"The Indian government and Indian firms are prepared to help in the development of central Africa. We want to open a new area for development."
He had urged his African counterparts to identify the sectors where partnership could be productive.