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Interview with H.E. Mr. Sailas Thangal, Ambassador of The Republic of India to Côte D'Ivoire

Posted on: January 26, 2021 | Back | Print

Q1.    According to some experts, India is one of the most powerful emerging economies in the world and Côte d'Ivoire is considered to be the leading economy in the UEOMA area. How can these two countries pool their expertise to strengthen their bilateral cooperation?

Ans: Indian economy is one of the fastest growing major economies, backed by its robust democracy and strong partnerships are expected to become top three economies over the next 10-15 years. Currently Indian economy is the fifth-largest measured by nominal GDP however, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) the third-largest in the world.

Côte d’Ivoire has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies and remains the economic hub of UEOMA. It is also the leading producer and exporter of cocoa beans and cashew nuts.

India- Cote d’Ivoire economic cooperation has been growing progressively. There are many sectors where India and Cote d’Ivoire can come and work together as equal partners for win-win cooperation, such as Agriculture, Healthcare & Pharma ICT and automobiles. Happily India and Cote d’Ivoire have complete complementarities in these key sectors. For example Cote d’Ivoire is the largest producer and exporter of cashew nuts but importer of food-grains and drugs while India is the largest consumer of cashew nuts and leading exporter of food-grains and quality yet cheap life-saving drugs. 

Q2.    Excellency, what is the state of cooperation between India and Côte d'Ivoire at present?

Ans: India and Cote d’Ivoire enjoy cordial, friendly and problem free relations with frequent high-level visits including the state visit of Hon’ble President of India in 2016. Over the years our relations have come a long way and diversified in all spheres and have grown by leaps and bounce. Trade and investment are growing rapidly apart from the traditional cashew trade many Indian companies and entrepreneurs have their presence in Cote d’Ivoire.

Cultural cooperation and people to people contact has been also growing. Indian movies, cuisines and Television operas are becoming more popular in Cote d’Ivoire. Education has been one of the silent drivers of enhancing people to people contacts and instilling better understanding of India in Cote d’Ivoire and Cote d’Ivoire in India. India provides 100 scholarships to Ivoirian students to study in India and besides this there are many Ivoirian students studying in India on self-financing basis. Yoga is also becoming popular among Ivorian youth.  Indian Embassy in Abidjan has been organizing cultural events to further strengthen our bilateral relations. Hence the level of our cooperation has been growing satisfactorily.

Q3.    What are the major projects in prospect that could further strengthen the ties between these two countries?

Ans: Development Cooperation is an important pillar of India-Cote d’Ivoire relations. These include various projects undertaken under India’s Line of Credit (LOC) which is a concessional loan. The total exposure of Indian LOC by EXIM Bank stands at US $ 247.7 million. Projects under LOC include the recently completed Mahatma Gandhi IT & Biotechnology Park (MGIT-BP), inaugurated by the Hon’ble Vice President His Excellency Daniel Kablan Duncan on 27 June 2019. Other LOC projects include 30 Rice processing units, coconut fibre processing and fish processing plan that are at various stages of implementation. Another important LOC project which is on the pipeline would be the building of four hospitals in Bouake, Daloa, Korhogo and Abidjan.   

Additionally, EXIM Bank also extended buyer’s credit for US$ 137.45 million, under which, Tata Automobiles supplied 567 buses worth US $ 87.45 million to Abidjan Transport Authority (SOTRA) and Ashok Leyland has supplied 841 vehicles (two models of buses & Two models of Trucks) worth US$ 50 million to the Fund for Development of Transport Routes (FDTR), an organization under the Ivoirian Ministry of Transport. In addition, GOI has also sanctioned buyer’s credit of US$ 54.40 million to Dangote Cement Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, there are few more India’s LoC projects on the pipeline through ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development.

Q4. In March 2020, the 3rd India-Côte d'Ivoire Business Forum was held in Abidjan; what does this forum consist of?

Ans: The Indian Embassy in Abidjan has been taking proactive action to convert the existing potential into trade & investment. So far we have organized three editions the first one in December 2018, second in June 2019 and the third one in March 2020. Third India-Cote d’Ivoire Business Forum was organized over two days  and included “3rd India-Cote d’Ivoire Business Forum: Business Connect”, which was inaugurated and addressed by Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Souleymane Diarrasouba, a special Health Care Seminar inaugurated and addressed by the Minister of Health and Public Hygiene HE Dr Eugène Aka-Aouélé, and a two days Solo exhibitions by 30 Indian companies showcasing their products and services to the Cote d’Ivoire business and public in general.

The two-day events received an overwhelming response with more than 100 Cote d’Ivoire and 50 plus, including 15 companies that travelled from India only to participate these events. The excellent response to these events is reflective of the growing opportunities in this market as also the growing interest of Indian enterprises to invest in Cote d’Ivoire.

Q5. How do you plan to translate the resolutions of this India-Cote d’Ivoire forum into action?

Ans: India-Cote d’Ivoire Business Forum is a flagship event to promote bilateral trade and investment. While immediate achievements of such event may be difficult to quantified, few Indian IT start-up companies who attended India-Cote d’Ivoire Business forums have found partners in Ivorian companies to start business activities. One of the major outcomes of these events has been the setting up of an assembling plant for three-wheeler e-rickshaw by an Indian company at Bouake. Few Indian healthcare players who attended our event are also seriously considering investing and setting up their business in Cote d’Ivoire.  

Therefore, I can confidently say that it has helped in better understanding of what Cote d’Ivoire’s investment & business environment is to potential Indian investors and business houses to plan and make up their mind to set up their business operation. I also believe that B2B interactions between potential partners of India and Cote d’Ivoire business would go a long way in developing trust and friendship which would ultimately lead to more trade and investments.

Q6. The Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Côte d'Ivoire has just opened its doors recently, what are its objectives?

Ans: Cote d’Ivoire powered by rapid economic growth and investment friendly policies has been a welcome ground for investors and entrepreneurs. Given the increasing interest among the Indian business to enhance bilateral trade and investment, the absence of Indian Chamber of Commerce was strongly felt. To bridge this gap, Embassy brought together like minded prominent Indian business personnel to form an Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI-CI). The ICCI-CI was formally inaugurated by the Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Souleymane Diarrassouba on 13 February 2020.

The ICCI-CI set up with an objective to build partnership between the businesses and professionals to bring about a healthy environment to foster bilateral cooperation with the host country and Indian Business. The ICCI-CI expects to serve the business community by addressing most frequently asked start-up questions and provide a wide range of resources. It is also expected to help in resolving many commercial disputes in cooperation with host government and other chambers of commerce which would ultimately lead to greater trade and Investment between India and Cote d’Ivoire.