INDIA is hosting its biggest-ever Africa summit this week as Asia’s third-largest economy eyes new opportunities for trade and economic cooperation with Africa.
Of the 54 countries invited, the hosts expect more than 40 to be represented by their heads of state and government who, after a series of ministerial meetings, will hold a full summit on Thursday, (October 29).
But the summit has been met with little enthusiasm across Africa. Some economic analysts like Liborous Oshoma, blame that on the continent’s leaders.
“Even with a summit such as this, you expect you know the publicity to be more in Africa than in India but it is hardly talked about here in Africa not because there are no benefits but I think Africa really does not know what they want, that is why … and then we over focus our attention on the western world as if that is where the benefits or the bread will come,” he said.
New Delhi seeks to challenge China’s dominance in Africa. India’s annual trade with Africa has grown to 72 billion U.S. dollars but lags behind China’s 200 billion dollars.
India, however, wants to capitalise on an economic slowdown in China to highlight India as an alternative partner for trade and investment.
Although India’s headline economic growth has overtaken China’s, its economy is one-fifth the size and it lacks the financial heft to challenge Beijing in a head-to-head contest for the African market.
Still, India wants its involvement in Africa to be less transactional than China’s, seeking a development partnership for the two regions.
Sub-Saharan Africa has vast natural resources including an array of minerals and commodities. The continent has achieved annual growth of more than 5 percent over the last decade, and foreign investment has more than quadrupled over the same period.
But according to the IMF, this year’s slump in commodity prices and the end of a flood of cheap dollars has cut back African growth and things could get worse if the global economy continues to flounder.
“It is an opportunity like I said for Africans you know not to solely look at you know, the direction they are used to looking America, Europe and the rest of the world, you know now you have looked at China, this is an opportunity also to look into India. What can these people offer? What are the benefits for us? And then tap into it greatly,” added Oshoma.
India is the fastest growing major economy in the world, and Africa, the fastest growing continent. The continent has a growing middle-class offering a huge market for all sorts of goods and services.
Africa and India account for a third of the world’s people, but seven in 10 people in both regions live in poverty.
Analysts on the continent warn global investors are concerned about issues such as corruption and government mismanagement.
“In terms of population, in terms of poverty, in terms of diseases, there is a similarity between you know India and Africa and India is a country you cannot say are folding their hands to all of these like you see in some countries in Africa,” said Oshoma.
India’s trading ties with Africa date back to antiquity and both found common cause in the struggle against colonial rule. Yet India’s influence faded over the course of the Cold War as it withdrew into non-aligned isolation.
India wants to project its soft power and historical ties to Africa, in contrast to China’s focus on resource extraction and capital investment that has sparked a backlash in some countries against Beijing’s mercantilist expansion. – Reuters