India looks at MENAWA region for growth

   Nov 8, 9:22 pm

New Delhi, Nov. 8 (ANI): With lingering economic uncertainties in the U.S. and a deepening debt crisis in Europe, India is looking to reduce its dependence on these countries and seeking investment opportunities elsewhere. A key focus area that has come into prominence in recent times is MENAWA - Middle East, North Africa and West Asia.

This region has lately been in the news for the birth of an "Arab Spring". With a civil unrest and political changes underway, companies fear to tread here. But an interesting study hopes to change the perception. Michael O' Sullivan, Portfolio Head of Credit Suisse, who profile 87 political transitions across the world, found that such transitions tended to lift the GDP and the Foreign Direct Investments in a country in the subsequent decade. They also brought down unemployment and inflation.

"Right now this area is in trouble. But when their problems are sorted out, they will bounce back and create a lot of opportunity for growth," said Prabhu Guptara, Ex Executive Director of UBS Switzerland.

And Indian companies are already taking notice. The MENAWA region, has traditionally been lacking in social media networks, tourism and infrastructure and companies here seeking cooperation in these fields. "There are more than 2000-3000 companies that are willing to enter this region. We believe this region, especially Africa, is going to be the next action area in the next 10-20 years," said Abhishek Sharma, a banker with a reputed MNC.

But until cooperation in these areas is developed, a major focus is going to be oil. "Out of the 12 OPEC countries, eight are in this region. So obviously it is very important. Sixty percent of the world's oil reserves are in this area and 45% of world's natural gas is found here. As long as have an oil and hydrocarbon based economy, this region will continue to remain politically and economically important," said Guptara.

Everyone is hoping the transition to democracy takes place quickly and smoothly in the region.

"If these political efforts are successful, then MENAWA with the EU will become a very powerful block," added Guptara.

The region comprises 400 million people but regularly needs to import skilled workforce to overcome labour shortages. Indians, along with Europeans, are the number two immigrants in the MENAWA region. A team in India has recently launched the "MENAWA network" to reach out to companies seeking investment and workforce.

"The vision behind MENAWA is to bring out the talent pool they have with them. This platform gives us an opportunity to work with emerging economies where one can see the kind of development that is taking place, the kind of opportunities we have in terms of infrastructure, finance, FTAs and socializing across the border. For us borders are not barriers," said Rajat Khullar, founding member of the MENAWA group.

Students of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) have launched the networking group. They are discussing the holding of a business summit in New Delhi.

"We are going to bring business leaders from all across the globe and have a conclave and build relations with industry leaders. We have lined some big players and will be hosting a summit soon," said Mukesh Kumar, founder of the group.

African leaders too seem enthused with the idea. "You will not believe if I say that Kenya and India are neighbours! But we actually are. We are connected by the vast Indian Ocean. For long traders have been coming through this route to Africa. Your companies should make Kenya as a platform for setting up a base in Africa and through us reaching the MENAWA region," said Thomas Okemwa Obwocha, first secretary, in-charge of Finance and accounts at the Kenyan High Commission in New Delhi. By Damanjeet Kohli (ANI)

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