Lilongwe, Malawi: Chinese premier Wen Jiabao may visit Malawi this year, just as India is stepping up efforts to woo African nations.
China, which established diplomatic ties with Malawi in December 2007, is building Malawi’s Parliament building in Lilongwe. Jiabao is expected to visit the capital city for the inauguration.
“We are working out the details of the visit and trying to finalize the plans,” said Zhou Haihong, first secretary and deputy head of mission at the Chinese embassy in Malawi. “The Parliament building will be ready this year.”
India has in recent years scrambled to boost economic diplomacy in Africa, where it has lost ground to China. India’s trade with the continent stands at around $39 billion (around Rs1.8 trillion) compared with China’s $100 billion.
Malawi, home to 13.57 million people, grew at 9.7% in 2008. Besides hydropower potential, it is rich in uranium, coal and bauxite deposits.
Trade between India and Malawi is about $2.4 billion. Indian vice-president Hamid Ansari, who is visiting Zambia, Malawi and Botswana, on Thursday announced a line of credit worth $50 million for Malawi.
In a related development, India’s state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) is eyeing engineering, procurement and construction contracts worth around $555 million in Malawi for two hydropower projects—the Songwe river hydroelectric scheme (320MW) and the Kapichu phase-II (64MW) project.
“We had earlier quoted for a sub-station order in Malawi and are currently looking at these two orders,” said a Bhel executive, who declined to be named.
“We are inviting India to look at several areas such as hydropower generation,” Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika told a banquet held to honour Ansari.
In another development, Coal India Ltd (CIL) is interested in buying coal mines in Malawi, said Ashok Kumar, India’s high commissioner to Zambia.
“Coal India has expressed interest in Malawi,” Kumar said. “However, data on coal deposits is not readily available and anyone who is interested in the coal mining sector in Malawi will have to conduct its own survey work.”
CIL could not be immediately contacted.