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LET’S BUILD closer ties with African countries…

Bulk of the extensive development of infrastructure in several African countries has been funded by China. Money is hard to come from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and IMF and the process of clearances is slow. Often it takes 2-4 years for studying and evaluating applications of funds and these added to costs. In contrast, Chinese experts decide on such funding in a short time. Funds directed to infrastructures such as light railways and manufacture helped in the creation of jobs and proved popular. The stronger economy of China and its aggressive leadership have made deeper inroads into these countries. This is an estimate by an expert on Africa.

Over a decade ago China liberally funded building roads, ports, and development of agriculture in several Latin American countries. These helped in the massive imports of soybean needed in vast quantities for meeting China’s food and feed needs. The huge surplus in a trade built by China is spent liberally on infrastructure projects in developing countries spread across the globe with handsome fallouts on the spread of Chinese influence.

Despite the long tradition of healthy trade relations and investments made by India in several African countries, they are far behind China’s. Until 2011, investments made by India and China in African countries were comparable: at around $ 16 billion each. Over the next five years, Chinese investments had grown to $ 40 billion compared to $ 14 billion by India.

Two-way trade between African countries and India have also been falling over the last three years: from $ 67.84 billion in 2013-14 to $ 51.96 billion in 2016-17. We have heard African leaders in the US referring to the enormous scope for India to extend its lessons on triggering the green revolution five decades ago as also in leveraging its strengths in education, health and building capacity. Africa has enormous potential for development, with its abundant natural resources, vast arable land and a growing population.

In recent years one has witnessed a large number of the heads of states of several African countries and other policymakers visiting India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been endeavouring to build closer relations with several African nations. His recent three-nation tour is a welcome attempt to expand trade and investments. The advantage of familiarity with the English language and the Indian community, especially from Gujarat, that had settled in several African countries and familiar with the local customs and practices should be leveraged.

Of course, India lacks the financial clout of China. To get over this, India could attempt a cooperative approach in which the development needs of an African country could be met jointly by India and the US, an European country, Japan or Korea.

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