Indian firms should work to cash in on the demographic dividends on offer in the African continent, an Africa-based Indian corporate leader said here.
"The youth of both India and Africa are becoming very attractive. While the western world, Russia, China, Japan are all graying, the median age in India is 25 and in Africa it is only 18," said Manoj Kohli, CEO (International), Bharti Airtel, who is based in Kenya.
"This ( young population) is fantastic for the mobile industry, for internet and broadband in particular. Millions of customers in Africa use our phones as mobile ATMs," Kohli said at an event Friday evening at the India Habitat Centre to award young entrepreneurs from India and Africa, organized by the initiative Indiafrica: A Shared Future, and supported by the Public Diplomacy Division of India's Ministry of External Affairs.
It were the opportunities offered by a population, that is projected to grow to 2 billion by the end of the decade from the current 1.1 billion, that had prompted Bharti Airtel to invest $13 billion in Africa over a three-year period, said Kohli.
According to Kohli, both India and Africa needed to focus on providing education, particularly the vocational kind, to much larger numbers of people.
" We are encouraging our partners (in Africa) to give more training so that local talent can be tapped, instead of having to employ expatriates," Kohli added.
Initiatives such as Indiafrica: A Shared Future have a crucial role to play in this context. It is a platform for the young from both regions to engage with each other and unleash their creative energies, said Riva Ganguly Das, joint secretary, Ministry of External Affairs.
"This is a unique project not only in terms of engaging the youth of India and Africa, but also in the use of social media itself. It is a very social media-driven project," Das said.
According to the organisers, the project's Facebook community membership crossed the figure of 184,000 Friday.
"Such initiatives are doing invaluably good work in raising awareness about each other, because ignorance and prejudices inherited from colonial times have been a major reason why few Indian businesses ventured into Africa earlier," Jonathan Wutawunashe, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to India, told IANS on the sidelines of the event.
"Things are changing now, there is more awareness, information and more people-to-people contact, business is growing," said Wutawunashe.
India's trade with the African continent, comprising 54 countries, has grown from modest levels of below $5 billion at the turn of the millennium to touch $60 billion in 2011-12.