Côte d’Ivoire opened its Resident Mission in New Delhi in September 2005. After a decade of political instability, Alassane Ouattara became the President of Côte d’Ivoire in May 2011, following the presidential election held in November 2010. Since then, the relationship with India has gained a good pace. THE BLUE MOON Editor Amit Mittal spoke to Ambassador SAINY Tiémélé of Côte d’Ivoire on the growing relationship between India and Côte d’Ivoire. Some excerpts of the interview:
Though the diplomatic relations with India were established in the 70’s, but in reality the Côte d’Ivoire mission came in to being in India in 2005. It was after the opening of the Embassy that we benefitted and got some financial assistance for projects that included food processing and technology. India imports from Côte d’Ivoire cashew nuts, teak wood and scrap whereas Côte d’Ivoire imports technology from India. As far as relationship is concerned, from 2005 to 2011 the progress was slow, but thereafter from 2011 the value of trade has multiplied twice as much in the field of agriculture and transport.
During the summit in October last year in India, important decisions taken by the Indian government will further strengthen relations between the two countries. There have been official visits at ministerial level. In 2013 and 2014, the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire visited India twice. Then in June 2016, the President of India visited Côte d’Ivoire and during his visit he extended invitation to the President of Côte d’Ivoire. It is hoped that the visit of the President of Côte d’Ivoire should materialise by first quarter of 2017.
Several Ivorian students come to India on ITEC scholarships, but in addition there are a 1, 000 to 1,500 students who are in India in cities like Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad. Cooperation with India has improved diplomatically leading to good relations.
Coming October, the first Joint Commission Meeting with India will be organised.
Many Indian companies have set up business in Côte d’Ivoire after 2011 and the number of Indians in the country has also gone up. There is close cooperation in the field of transport, agriculture and mining. Ashok Leyland, Tata group and Pratibha are some of the Indian companies in Côte d’Ivoire. However, more needs to be done in the field of culture. There is need to increase youth training as also give a push to tourism between the two countries.
We already have three consulates, one in Mumbai, second in Bengaluru and the third in Kolkata. Soon a fourth one will be opened in Chennai.
Are you satisfied with the volume of trade with India which stood at USD 841.8 million in 2014-15?
We can definitely do more trade. Development of new cooperation will increase trade volume. There can be projects in fisheries and coco fibre processing and many other programs like Ashok Leyland and Tata. Tata steel has already opened one company. Another company Taurian is working in the mining sector in Côte d’Ivoire. Yet another company by the name of Olam exists in agriculture. India’s position is very strong in Côte d’Ivoire.
In the recent summit in India, several decisions have been taken which will benefit Côte d’Ivoire.
Which is the largest investor in Côte d’Ivoire?
Europe is the one with France being the largest investor. There are investments from the US and from Asia, the largest investments come from India, China and Japan. India can grow larger in Côte d’Ivoire; more sectors are open there.
Are there any delays in LoC disbursements from India?
Yes,there are delays in LoC disbursements but these delays are not caused by India.
Are there any projects financed through buyer-credit?
Yes, there are three projects in the pipeline where Indian companies and the Government Côte d’Ivoire deal through EXIM Bank.
One important development is that the EXIM bank of India has established a representative office in Côte d’Ivoire which will cover 22 countries. This is an important development. Credit will move faster because of this outlet.
You mentioned Ivorian students studying in Indian universities, do these students face problems like some other African students have been facing in India?
There is no specific case, but this is a common problem. Some students complained of facing problems in the universities. They complained that when they had paid fees to the university authorities and arrived in India, they found that what was shown in the prospectus of the university was missing. These students could do nothing. They could not switch to other university as the Indian visa granted to them was on behalf of the university they had applied to.
Did these students apply in government run universities or private ones?
We were not aware of the difference between a government and a private university, but we have established a system for the past two to three years wherein we ensure that the university is accredited.
You spoke about increasing tourism between India and Côte d’Ivoire; do many Indians visit Côte d’Ivoire?
We issued around 1,500 visas in India which included for business promotion and tourism.
I would like to point out here that the African Development Bank (ADB) has its headquarters in Côte d’Ivoire.
(Journalist): Excellency as we are about to close this interview, do you have any final words?
First of all, I thank you for this opportunity you are giving me to discuss about the cooperation between India and Côte d’Ivoire.
I would like to thank Indian authorities at all levels for their supports which are daily helping us forwards.
I sincerely thank them for their remarkable efforts towards the strengthening of the cooperation and the important financial supports to Côte d’Ivoire which aspires to become an emerging country by 2020.