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Is India consolidating in Africa as China’s influence recedes?

India-Africa engagements: On a high

Several African countries are now looking at India for investments and financial assistance amid growing apprehension that China’s slowing economy could impact its lending. Besides, many of the China driven projects have come under the scanner for lack of transparency. A few countries have already sought to renegotiate the finer points of the project deals.

Not just that. Chinese private sector push into Africa is not evenly distributed. According to the Diplomat About 12 countries “account for two-thirds of total investment on the continent. They include Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Ghana, Algeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” it said.

In June, just as India started opening up after a brutal Covid 19 second wave, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Kenya to participate in the India-Kenya Joint Commission. “The visit went on to signify India’s increased focus on Africa, after all this was one of the first foreign tours of the minister right after the Covid 19 lockdown,” an insider told India Narrative.

Also read: From Congo to Angola, is Africa waking up to Chinese debt traps?

The Foreign Policy in a report titled, ‘Is India the New China in Africa’ noted that these talks took place amid India’s endeavour to “consolidate its Africa outreach through sustained and regular high-level visits to reinforce its image” as one of foremost development partners in the continent. “The fact that India kept its supply lines open for much of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured that critical supplies of medicines and medical equipment reached countries in need in Africa is a testament to India’s desire to become a steadfast and reliable partner, even though by the end of March, when India was confronted by a devastating second wave of the virus, it had to halt the export of AstraZeneca vaccines,” the report added.

Soon after Jaishankar’s visit, Ministry of External Affairs secretary (Economic Relations) Rahul Chhabra visited Ghana’s capital Accra. In fact the frequency of high level visits to Africa has only increased as India is now eyeing to open diplomatic missions almost in all countries in the continent.

Sources told India Narrative that India has been “continuously working” towards ensuring that engagements with Africa increase. India’s investments in Africa are not just financial in nature, many of the projects are purely humanitarian which are aimed only at developing the social indicators, though these have failed to make headlines, one of them said.

He added that India has always played a major role in Africa irrespective of the “China angle”. "It is not that investments from India have suddenly gone up due to China’s slowing down but in the new frame, many of the countries in Africa would look for greater economic partnership with New Delhi,” he added.

India has also shifted gears.

Until now, New Delhi has typically been more focused in East and North Africa. “India is now consciously and looking to diversify and expand ties with other countries, including the Francophone nations in the continent. Expansion of ties with many of these countries is more strategic in nature than just pure investments,” Sankalp Gurjar, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs said.

Also read: India must work out a mechanism to be part of Africa's mega trade deal

Meanwhile there is an increased clamour within the continent to renegotiate the Chinese led projects and their finer details.

Between 2000 and 2019, China committed to invest about $153 billion in Africa. However, there is no clear data to show how much money has actually come in.

“The Asian giant has in the past decade or so been involved in several multi-billion shillings projects on the continent, amid reports of kickbacks, a lack of accountability to a certain level and high interest rates passed on to the struggling African economies,” Nairobi News said.