The ongoing India-Africa Forum summit should be an opportunity to reassess Indian successes and failures in Africa. To many, the summit appears to be a belated effort to catch up with China in the continent. There is a grain of truth in the claim.
India badly needs the resources that Africa has. It has made investments in various countries there, ones that do not seem to be paying off in terms of getting its hands on those resources. It looks as if India is not getting the “bangs per buck” and does not have the deep pockets that China has. This is only partially true. A strategic impetus is required for success in such drives.
While there may be strong limitations to a trade-invest-get-resources strategy in the continent, there are areas where it can succeed. West Africa is one region where such efforts should be made. It’s energy resources rich and its trade pattern with India, in contrast to China, is more diversified and includes labour-intensive manufactures.
So far, India has not succeeded because of political blinkers and investment is wasted due to poor coordination between various government agencies. Consider two examples of aid and investment. Under the techno-economic approach to Africa-India movement (TEAM-9), India has extended a credit line of $500 million to eight West African nations. Indian investment in Cote d’Ivoire will rise to $1 billion over 2006-11, mainly in the mining and hydrocarbon sectors.
All this might go waste.
India refuses to sell weapons to many states in Africa because they lie in a conflict zone. China, a permanent member of the United Nations, has no compunction in doing so. When Chinese companies bid for African resources, they provide a complete package of infrastructure, aid and technical cooperation apart from paying for these resources. This is in stark contrast to the Indian approach.
India has all the ingredients required to successfully bid for these resources. The duty-free tariff preference scheme, which will benefit 34 African nations that export manufactures to India, can be an answer to China’s investment strategy. Provided, of course, our ministries and agencies can coordinate their act.
Is poor government coordination harming Indian interests in Africa? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org