New Delhi: With the slogan "Chalo Africa", ministers and officials from African nations Thursday invited Indian firms to explore opportunities in the mining industry - not just for prospecting, but also to look at other ancillary prospects.
With China increasingly gobbling up resources in mineral-rich Africa, India will have to move faster and "move up" in the value chain to corner a slice of the pie.
"We want Indian firms to exploit resources in a rational manner," said Bwabwa Wa Keyembe, Congo's director general of the National Agency for Promotion of Investments, at the fourth India-Africa business conclave here.
"We want it to be advantageous to both the countries," he said.
"I want to tell you there is more room for Indian firms in Mozambique," said MussÃ¡ Usman, deputy director, CPI-Investment Promotion Centre, Mozambique, ending his presentation on mining opportunities from diamonds to copper and nickel with the slide saying, "Chalo Africa, Chalo Mozambique" (Let's go to Africa, Let's go to Mozambique).
According to Zambian Commerce Minister Felix C. Mutati, African countries would prefer Indian investment "as we understand each other".
"You have cost-effective technology which we want. We are able to understand each other better as we are both from the south," he said.
The minister said that Indian firms should concentrate on exploring prospects for supplying equipment to the mining industry, as well as in processing of raw materials.
"We know Indians are good at arithmetic. We want you to value-add," he said, tongue in cheek. He pointed out that the Tata group was building a 120 MW plant to supply power to the mining industry in Zambia.
"If people see raw materials being taken away, then they are upset. But if they see a finished product and experience increased employment, that will make them happier," added Keyembe.
Training was another area for collaboration, with African participants saying that they looked towards India in this sector. "We know that India has invested a lot in training. We want to take advantage of that," said Keyembe.
"Even if they don't learn anything, just saying that they are travelling to India for training is a big deal," said Mutati.
Talking about problems faced by Indian business due to red tape, he said there had been a lot of simplification of procedures to get licenses.
The perennial issue of visas for potential investors and business people was also discussed, with African officials saying they will make it easier to get travel documents.
To a query that Indian business people would like visas to multiple countries in Africa at the same time, the Zambian minister suggested that the dean of African diplomatic corps should coordinate the matter with various embassies in New Delhi.
According to Usman, Mozambique, as part of Southern African Development Community (SADC), was currently negotiating a uni-visa system. "It means that if you get a visa to South Africa, then you can travel to other countries too," he said.