More than a century after Mahatma Gandhi went to South Africa, and three decades after China began to woo the rich continent for its natural resources, foreseeing the need for energy, modern India is following suit. 400 business and political leaders from 34 African nations and India gathered recently at the sixth India-Africa business conclave in New Delhi to firm up 145 business projects worth US$9 billion. Centered around the theme “Developing Synergies: Creating a Vision”, the conclave will focus on four sub-themes – partnership, rural economies, Africa tomorrow and going green.
Spurred by large development projects funded by China, already underway, India’s private sector is aggressively pushing into Africa, hoping its rich colonial ties with the continent will pay dividends. While Sunil Mittal controlled Bharti Telecom is perusing to acquire Zain Telecom in Africa, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, bought African beauty company, Tura, for an undisclosed sum today. Essar Oil and ONGC already have large investments in Sudan, Kenya, Libya and Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the past few years, India’s trade with Africa has soared from US$967 in 1991 to US$20 billion in 2006/07 and is targeted for US$70 billion by 2015. Although India has cut duties, extended lines of credit and cooperated with African nations on everything from terrorism to the environment, China has superseded India in pouring investments into the developing continent.
China’s trade relations with Africa were worth less than India’s in 1999, but have since leapt to beyond US$60 billion. In addition, China hold’s annual summits to further develop trade and economic ties with African nations. Of late, a 15-member Chinese business delegation met Zimbabwean Vice President John Nkomo and China’s top political advisor Jia Qinglin is expected to pay goodwill visits to Cameroon, Namibia and South Africa from March 23 to April 1, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) said.
Rich in natural resources and with a huge untapped consumer market the African continent is being hotly contested for by both China and India. While infrastructure and development of the population remain hurdles, both China and India are jumping higher and further to woo African nations. While India’s relying on its erstwhile colonial ties with Africa, China is pinning its hopes on large infrastructure investments. Being the largest bloc in the United Nations both India and China also realize the importance of Africa’s support internationally.
To read more on China and India’s impact on Africa see: Africa’s Silk Road