New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) Guinea, the resource-rich West African nation, is ready to offer Indian firms farmland and mineral resources on lease for development. Guinea holds nearly two-thirds of the world's bauxite reserves and has huge deposits of gold and diamonds.
The country's Industry Minister, Ramatoulaye Bah, said the land could be allocated in any part of the country and the period of lease would be in the range of 40 to 60 years.
"We are interested in having strong business relations with India. Our government is giving it a top priority," Bah, who was in India to participate in the Partnership Summit held last week in Agra, told IANS in an interview.
She said Guinea last year opened an embassy in India, the only one in South Asia, to facilitate investment and trade and strengthen political relations.
"Big mining companies like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are present today in Guinea. We want Indian companies to come and participate in our development," she said.
Bah said many Indian companies have shown interest for investment in the last two years since the first democratically elected government came to power in December 2010.
Guinea got independence from France in 1958 but has been in the grip of political instability. Current president Alpha Conde is the first democratically elected head of state. Conde came to power in December 2010.
Bah said the transition to civilian rule had boosted investors' confidence in the Guinean economy.
"In the last two years several Indian companies have shown interest for investment in Guinea. Some are interested in building cement factory, some in oil refinery and mining," she said, without naming the companies.
She said Guinea welcomed Indian investments in mining of gold and diamonds and other areas.
India is the largest consumer of gold, but there is hardly any mineral deposits. Bah said Guinean gold reserves are largely untapped and Indian firms, including public sector firms, could participate in mining of the yellow metal.
Bah said Guinea has proven reserves of one million tonnes of gold and 20 million carat of diamonds.
Guinea is among the poorest countries in the world despite huge mineral reserves. The per capita income of Guinea is around $500. Most of the 11 million people in country live on less than $1 a day.
The number of Indians in Guinea is insignificant. And so is the business presence, due to political uncertainties and language barriers.
"Indian presence is very low and we would like to see this go very high. We want Indians to come and invest in Guinea," she said.
Bah said Guinea has been pressing on the Indian government to reciprocate by opening an embassy in Conakry. India currently has a consulate in the Guinean capital.
"We want India to reciprocate. It is our great wish to have an Indian embassy in Guinea," she said.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)