World Economy

Africa Wedged Between India and China

Africa Wedged Between India and ChinaAfrica Wedged Between India and China

If it was a good summit then everybody benefits. But the India-Africa summit this week had a blemish: it was not a meeting among equals,  DW reported.

As it turned out, the timing was perfect for India. This huge Africa summit–the largest gathering of African leaders outside Africa–was postponed because of the Ebola epidemic. It took place in October. Why was this so important for India? Because South Africa is hosting a China-Africa summit at the beginning of December and the Indian hosts would have been most disappointed if their neighbors had once again sneaked ahead of them in the new “scramble for Africa.”

China’s trade with Africa already totals some $70 billion, which is three times India’s trade with the continent.

Despite the opulent festivities in New Delhi which accompanied the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit, and the reminders of how much Africa and India have in common, it was evident that the Indian tiger can be just as pragmatic as the Chinese dragon when crafting relations with the African lion.

India needs support for its campaign to reform the United Nations (it would like a permanent seat on the UN Security Council); it needs backing at the climate summit in Paris and allies in combating global terror and fighting piracy at sea. India would like to be able to count on Africa as a strategic partner at the upcoming World Trade Organization negotiations (which are taking place in Nairobi in December).

Africa has much to gain if it were to agree on common positions over trade, security cooperation, climate protection and South-South cooperation with India.

Before the summit, Indian commentators had expressed surprise at the lack of African enthusiasm for the meeting and, incidentally, at the lack of preparation for it as well. More seasoned observers were not surprised. South Africa exports coal to India in vast quantities. But that African nation, which has an ethnic Indian population of 1.3 million, has yet to properly exploit its potential for trade and knowledge transfer.

he same must also be said of the BRICS group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

 Commodity Exporter

Africa continues to export raw materials. Its diamonds, minerals and crude oil are processed elsewhere and then–in part–reimported as mostly poor quality goods. This is not the fault of India or China, but of Nigeria and South Africa. South Africa produces 90% of the world’s platinum output but only a tiny percentage of the catalytic convertors which are dependent on the metal for their manufacture. This is one example among many.

With a barely disguised dig at the Chinese, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country wanted to invest in Africa so the snow on Kilimanjaro wouldn’t melt. But after four days of meetings involving 1,000 delegates, the Africans tended to believe that the Indians may be a little less slippery than the Chinese, or at least they gave the appearance of being so.

It should also be mentioned that the Indian oil concern ONGC owns oil fields in Sudan and evidently sees Africa as a potential growth area.