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Ambassador Anurag Srivastava joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1999. Before his present appointment, he headed the Finance Division of Ministry of External Affairs which is tasked to administer the Ministry’s annual budget of about USD 2 billion. As more than half of this budget is directed towards supporting India’s development partnership objectives all over the world, he was responsible for not only managing financial flows to these projects, but also for their monitoring and oversight. Ambassador Srivastava has also headed the Political Wing at the Indian High Commission in Colombo, where along with other responsibilities in terms of managing the political dimension of a close bilateral relationship, he was closely involved in formulation and implementation of development assistance projects in the areas of housing, health, education and livelihoods.
Ambassador Srivastava has earlier served at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva where he dealt with work related to human rights, refugee issues and trade policy. He has held different positions in the Foreign Office in New Delhi, including in the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Division and in the Official Spokesperson’s Office.
Ambassador Srivastava obtained degrees in engineering and business management followed by a brief stint in the corporate sector before joining the Foreign Service. He also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Oxford, UK. He speaks French in addition to English and Hindi. He spoke to Capital about the two countries economic and political ties. Excerpts;
Capital: The two countries have strong and very old diplomatic relation. How do you evaluate it?
Ambassador Anurag Srivastava: Our shared historical and civilizational links forms the bedrock of our relations. The first recorded evidence of our bilateral commercial engagement is in the form of Indian traders coming to the ancient Red Sea port of Adulis to trade silk and spices for gold and ivory. In medieval times, many Ethiopians distinguished themselves as military officers and administrators of ruling kingdoms of India. The most famous among them was the celebrated Malik Ambar from Harar, who went on to occupy a position of great authority. The cultural tapestry of the relationship was further enriched through large-scale migrations into Ethiopia 100-120 years ago, particularly from India’s western state of Gujarat. They were probably pioneers of FDI into Ethiopia. During World War II, Indian soldiers fought for the liberation of Ethiopia as part of Allied fighting forces. In the period of Emperor Haile Selassie, Indian teachers who were invited to teach in primary schools in remote parts of Ethiopia left their indelible mark on an entire generation and shaped many a lives.
These historical and civilizational links and constant contacts at the people-to-people level explain the similarities between our two countries – in cuisine, in language and even in our value systems. Our shared love for Bollywood movies strengthens these bonds. There would hardly be an Ethiopian who has not watched the movie ‘Mother India’.
I would say that the present bilateral partnership is anchored on the bedrock of these links. The economic dimension in the form of trade, investment, and developmental projects is the crux of this partnership. Today, India is amongst Ethiopia’s top-three trade and investment partners and Indian investors are playing an important role in Ethiopia’s economic growth. Both countries see each other as valued partners.
If I were to talk in terms of numbers, the bilateral trade between India and Ethiopia reached USD1.37 billion in 2016, out of which India’s exports to Ethiopia were USD1.30 Billion and imports were USD 68.4 million. Bilateral trade volumes have risen sharply over the last 20 years, from less than USD 50 million in 1995 to over USD 1.37 billion in 2016. India is the third most important source of imports for Ethiopia. In terms of Indian investments, there are about 600 companies registered here with USD 4 billion licensed investment and about USD 2 billion is already on the ground.
Capital: What is your strategy to expand Indian investment in the country?
Ambassador Srivastava: The Embassy facilitates trade, investment and technology transfer between the two countries. We organize visits of business delegations and buyer seller meets, provide necessary information and facilitate meetings with concerned authorities in government. Of course, investment decisions are finally made by investors on the basis of factors like comparative advantages, ease of doing business, perceived stability, etc., and governments can only be facilitators in that process. Having said this, I must also say that we have in discussion with the Ethiopian government identified five focus areas for our economic engagement – light manufacturing, agriculture and food processing, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and education/capacity building. If I look at the past six months, we had successful visits of multi-sectoral delegations from Indian industry associations like CII and ASSOCHAM. There have also been delegations from Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council, Federation of Indian Export Organization, India Trade Promotion Organization and the Synthetic & Rayon Textiles Export Promotion Council. We have had a series of exhibitions and promotional events. All this reflects the intense engagement between businesses on both sides. Discussions on investments into Ethiopia by many of these delegates are underway.
In this context, I must also mention the role of the Indian Business Forum (IBF) which has been in existence since 2005. Potential investors value feedback and information given by existing investors more than anything else. IBF fulfils this role. It also helps to disseminate accurate information to potential Indian investors and in shaping their perceptions.
Capital: How many Indian companies have invested in Ethiopia and how do you evaluate their investment in terms of success?
Ambassador Srivastava: There are about 600 Indian companies in Ethiopia with licensed investment of over USD 4 billion of which about USD 2 billion is estimated to be on the ground. In terms of sectoral focus, 60 % of this investment is in the manufacturing sector and about 18 % in agriculture. This shows that Indian FDI is largely aligned to the needs and priorities of the Ethiopian government. If you look at recent investment, some iconic Indian companies have come into the textile and garments sector, which happens to be a priority sector under the Growth and Transformation Plan-II. Arvind Mills set up a six-million-piece garment plant in Ethiopia. Kanoria Africa Textiles PLC’s denim factory in Bishoftu was opened by the Honorable Prime Minister of Ethiopia in October 2015. Raymond is investing USD100 million to set up a manufacturing unit in the Hawasa Industrial park.
Capital: The Indian agriculture investment is one of the major FDI for the country. However, the government of Ethiopia annulled the license of Karaturi recently. What is your comment on this issue?
Ambassador Srivastava: There are a number of Indian investments in Ethiopia in the agriculture sector. Indian investments in agriculture sector falls into two categories, floriculture and commercial farming. While generally floriculture has done well, there have been some problems with commercial farming investments. Ethiopia has 74 million hectares of arable land and it can be the food basket for the world. Commercial farming in Ethiopia, therefore, has huge potential. While commercial farming investment came in looking at these opportunities, I think their difficulties resulted from under estimating the challenges at the time of making investment decisions. On the particular investment that you have referred to, I can say that we seek the support of Ethiopian authorities in resolving the issue in the best interests of all concerned. Having said that, I must add that the two countries continue to work together to harness the potential of agriculture and food processing sectors in order to meet our shared objectives.
Capital: Is there any interest for Indian companies to invest in industrial parks, like China is doing?
Ambassador Srivastava: Indian companies have shown interest in contributing in various ways to the development and setting up of Industrial Parks in this country. We hope that these interests materialise into concrete results in discussion with the government. I must mention an Indian investment through Dubai in Mekelle, Velocity Apparels, which has already made some headway in setting up an industrial park for textile and garments which adjoins its existing manufacturing unit.
Capital: Your government has provided huge amount of loan for a sugar project at Tendaho and it promised to facilitate finance for railway project. What is the status?
Ambassador Srivastava: Ethiopia is the largest recipient of India’s Lines of Credit given to any single country in Africa totalling about USD1 billion. Our present and proposed exposure covers not only sugar industry but also electrification and renewable energy sectors. Lines of Credit amounting to USD 640 million have been provided through the EXIM Bank of India for three sugar projects in Finchaa, Wonji Shoa and Tendaho. Of these, Finchaa has already been completed and the other two, which are in final stages of completion are expected to be handed over to the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation within this year.
Capital: Do you have new social development projects?
Ambassador Srivastava: We have been involved directly as well as through our private/non-governmental sector in implementing development projects in Ethiopia. Largely, healthcare, education and economic empowerment have been the focus of our activities. As two developing countries, we share similar contexts and challenges. For years, Ethiopia has benefited from our low-cost, home-grown, community-driven models in rural development and in addressing problems of rural poverty, provision of water, education, healthcare, employment, etc. We have supported institutional tie ups, experience sharing visits, capacity building initiatives, etc., in this area. To name a few, setting up of a vocational training centre in Addis Ababa, providing benefits of telemedicine and tele-education at Black Lion Hospital and Addis Ababa University respectively, providing scholarships for further education at Indian institutions at undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral and post-doctoral levels, etc., have been among our initiatives. Actually, providing training and capacity building opportunities in some of the best Indian institutions in areas like engineering, management, public administration, biotechnology, information technology, journalism, etc., has been at the core of our cooperation for social development.
I must say that Indian businesses operating in Ethiopia also realize the value and importance of community service and we in the Embassy have always encouraged them to be engaged in noble causes. In January this year, an Indian company involved in a road project in this country, organized camps to provide artificial limbs, popularly known as the Jaipur Foot, to hundreds of persons with disabilities. I along with President Mulatu Teshome had the privilege to be present at Haramaya University, the site of one of the camps. It gave me great satisfaction to witness the sheer joy on faces of beneficiaries who regained their mobility, dignity, and in many cases, sustenance. I must add that through the Indian Women’s Association in Addis Ababa, which functions as the charitable and philanthropic arm of the Embassy, we also support social work for community development in Ethiopia. Recently, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, the IWA invited First Lady Roman Tesfaye to join them to felicitate two organisations- Missionaries of Charity and Ye Enat Weg Charitable Foundation for their commendable community work.
The Embassy is also actively involved in promoting Yoga in Ethiopia. Yoga as you may know is part of ancient Indian tradition and provides for holistic development of body and mind. We have been celebrating the International Day of Yoga every year. This year we would be having the celebrations with a short practice of yoga at Hotel Intercontinental on 17th June at 9 am. Through the medium of your newspaper, I would like to invite everyone to join us on this occasion and learn about various benefits of yoga.
Capital: Your country stands firmly with Dr. Tedros Adhanom for the WHO top post, what do you say?
Ambassador Srivastava: We have noted with great pleasure the election of Dr Tedros Adhanom as the Director General of WHO. It is a great achievement and moment of pride for both Ethiopia and Africa. I congratulate the government and people of Ethiopia on this occasion. I can now reveal that we were happy to extend our support to Dr Tedros in these elections. We wish him a very successful tenure as DG, WHO.