Accra/New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) As Indian pharmaceutical companies face charges of selling counterfeit drugs in Africa, India has dubbed the allegations as "calculated attempts" by Western cartels to destroy its march to provide affordable medicines.
According to Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, since Indian companies introduced generic medicines to fight drug resistant malaria on the market at cheaper costs, they have been inundated with several allegations of wrongdoing.
"Indian generics have changed the face of health" on the globe because of their affordability, Sharma said in New Delhi. "This is all due to the fact that these companies have broken the back of the cartel that control global medicines."
Speaking at the 9th CII-Exim Bank Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership here, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) director general Chandrajit Banerjee stated that India has always maintained a stakeholder interest in Africa's sustained prosperity.
"This is reflected in some of India's export goods that have provided a lifeline to African societies," Banerjee said, adding "Indian pharmaceutical firms have supplied affordable Anti-Retroviral Vaccines (ARVs) to Africa to fight the AIDS menace".
Despite these arguments for the Indian pharmaceuticals sector, some of its biggest attacks have come from the west African region, notably Nigeria and Ghana in particular, where regulators claim Indian firms have flooded their markets with "fake medicines".
Banerjee told delegates there have been a 20-fold increase in bilateral trade between African countries and India. There has been steady growth in trade and India is projecting to increase its bilateral trade flows to $80 billion with Africa by 2015.
The growth has increased from $1 billion in 2001 to about $50 billion in 2012. This is not surprising, as Banerjee says, India "has emerged as Africa's fourth largest trading partner, after the European Union, China and the US".
Last week Chinese diplomats in Ghana met officials of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to discuss allegations of fake drugs imports from China and India. The Ghanaian FDA later expressed discontent at the rate at which substandard and fake medicines from China, India and other countries are flooding the Ghanaian market.
On the other hand, going by the arguments of Sharma, it looks like these African regulators would have to be circumspect in how they dealt with these allegations, since they may be playing into the hands of interested parties keen to destroy the Indian success story.
The medicines' export has been part of India's effort to engage Africa in trade.
According to a CII report, the growth in trade though modest is a reflection of efforts to strengthen India's engagement with the African continent. By last year, India was financing over 220 projects worth $29.5 billion and the CII says, "business were conducted in areas ranging from power, fertilisers and agriculture to education, small and medium industries and telecommunications."
A CII report said "over the last decade and more, Indian and African economies have experienced relatively high GDP growth, with some of the countries in Africa being rated among the fastest growing economies in the world".
To build on the past India-African relationship, Sharma announced about 50,000 Africans were being educated on scholarships in India and another 22,000 were expected to benefit from similar educational programmes in the next three years.
He said India has provided assistance to the establishment of the Kofi Annan India Information Technology Centre (KAIITC) in Ghana. There are plans to built an Institute of Foreign Trade in Uganda as well Institutes of Education and Mining across the continent, he added.
"India is a shining example of a melting pot to the whole world because (we) have always been home to people who have faced religious and political persecution."
"Together, Africa and India's partnership is redefining the rebalancing of the global economy," he added.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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