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March 24, 2009

Indian biofuel investors look to Ghana

With Ghana scouting for Indian investment for its alternate energy sector, firms here have begun to join the rush to secure land in the west African nation for biodiesel production.

India’s biggest investment so far in the African country - $45 million - is by the Ghana arm of Hazel Mercantile, the Mumbai-based distributor of chemicals and petrochemical products: the company aims to cultivate jatropha in that country to produce biofuel.

According to Augustine Acheampon Otoo, director of global and regional operations at Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), another Indian company has already started to secure land with its government.

Otoo said the second Indian company - which he did not name - has made an investment commitment of $40 million for cultivating jatropha and biofuel processing.

“We started talking last year and they have set up an office (in Ghana) beginning of this year,” Otoo told IANS on the sidelines of the fifth India-Africa conclave on project partnership March 23.

“They (the Indian company) are asking for 50,000 hectares. That is not difficult for us, as an Israeli firm had asked for 100,000 hectares and we were able to secure it in four areas close to each other,” he said.

The two Indian companies join a rash of companies from several countries already in Ghana or are in the process of identifying for land to set up the biofuel projects.

“Netherlands has started with about 100 acres in the northern part of country. The Chinese have started a pilot project. Germans and Israelis are also here, along with Belgium and Italy,” Otoo said.

And now, Ghana is looking for investment from Indian companies. “I visited India twice last year. And I have been speaking (to companies) to generate more interest in this area,” he said.

India already has a substantial presence in the Ghanaian economy, and is the second highest foreign investor after China. From 1994 to 2008, India registered 359 projects in the African nation compared to China’s 368.

However, as per GIPC’s January 2009 update, India made the highest investment in the quarter October-December 2008.

In the area of alternate energy, Ghana is also looking for Indian partners in areas such as wind energy. “I know that India has a lot of expertise in wind power. Besides, we are also looking for machinery in terms of improving the existing hydro power sector,” Otoo said.

The Ghanaian official also listed off-grid generators, solar energy and bio-energy as the other opportunity sectors for Indian companies.


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