India has stated its intention to negotiate a "unique" free trade agreement with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in a move it hopes will boost India-Africa trade volume.

Addressing the Inaugural Session of the 13th Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi recently, Suresh Prabhu, India's Minister for Commerce and Industry, told delegates the Government would negotiate an FTA with the AfCFTA that would be "unique in nature and beneficial to Africa's needs".

The Minister was of the view that while bilateral trade between India and Africa was of the order of US$5bn, this was "far below potential" and efforts needed to be made to step up the volume of trade as well as "diversify the trade basket".

In this regard, Prabhu said the Ministry was revamping export insurance and the Project Export Promotion Council to provide the much needed boost to India's exports to Africa. The Government is also seeking to set up a new India-Africa Development Fund, which would seek to synergise the lines of credit as well as other export promotion and development programmes to bring about a "more holistic" development of the continent.

The Minister also highlighted the need for Indian companies to invest in Africa and stated that it was for this reason the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor was being developed. He said it was the Government's intention to strengthen connectivity links with Africa, especially in the area of civil aviation.

Last month, leaders of nearly 50 African nations signed a deal to create the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), marking a historic milestone in the economic integration of the continent. The agreement will create a single market of 1.2bn people with a combined gross domestic product of more than US$2 trillion.

AfCFTA giant stride forward for the development of Africa