African and Indian law firms should collaborate to profit from growing trade relations, writes Nankunda Katangaza

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group will hold its annual meetings on the Indian subcontinent for the first time on 22-26 May, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The choice of Gujarat is particularly poignant as most of Africa’s large Indian-origin communities are descendants of sea-faring Gujaratis who traded and laboured in colonial East Africa at the turn of the 19th century. India’s cultural influence remains strong in East and Southern African cuisine, dress and languages. Africans too have made their way to India as students and traders primarily, but also as consumers of India’s service industries, forging greater ties between the continent and sub-continent.

In March, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurating the 12th Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership, declared that the India-Africa century had begun. This, after his first African visit, to Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Namibia in 2016, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit later in the year to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

Following on the heels of the conclave and the India-Africa bi-annual summit held in Delhi in late 2015, the AfDB meetings will be far more ambitious, with 41 African heads of state in attendance. Alongside the bank’s official meetings and government-to-government engagement will be a range of African businesses and service providers hoping to make lasting connections with their Indian counterparts.

Despite some headlines portraying the gathering as primarily a donor conference, the agenda is clearly focused on opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and advancing the Africa-India conversation from the common struggle against colonialism and poverty to one of building new collaborative relationships which capitalize on trade and investment opportunities.

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NANKUNDA KATANGAZA is a co-founder and director of Hook Tangaza, a boutique advisory and consulting firm working with law firms, institutions and governments to build more competitive businesses, stronger institutions and better functioning markets in the professional services sector globally.

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