India and China are rivals in Africa; India had an early start, but China has powered ahead, largely on the back of its willingness to underwrite, even build infrastructure in the continent.(Reuters File Photo)
India and China are rivals in Africa; India had an early start, but China has powered ahead, largely on the back of its willingness to underwrite, even build infrastructure in the continent.(Reuters File Photo)

Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping look to boost ties with Africa

PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are visiting Africa and will attend the 10th BRICS summit in South Africa.
By Jayanth Jacob | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 24, 2018 11:07 AM IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Senegal on July 22 for a two-day visit, the first stopover of an Africa visit that will also see him head to Rwanda, South Africa and Mauritius.

The Chinese leader arrived in Africa a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Uganda on Monday on the first stop of his three-nation tour that includes Rwanda and South Africa.

Both leaders are attending the 10th BRICS summit in South Africa from July 25 -27. The summit will focus a great deal on Africa, a continent of 54 countries — most of them resource-rich and with rapidly growing markets. 

India and China are rivals in Africa; India had an early start, but China has powered ahead, largely on the back of its willingness to underwrite, even build infrastructure in the continent.

China is also Africa’s biggest trading partner. But India has been busy these past four years, according to a diplomat.  

“We have also had an unprecedented 23 outgoing visits to Africa in the last four years at the President, vice-president and Prime Minister level. The Prime Minister himself has visited six African countries and will now visit three more. Under our Africa Outreach initiative, we have had visits to all African countries at the Ministerial level”, said TS Tirumuri, secretary, economic relations at the ministry of external affairs . 

Xi is the first Chinese President to visit Rwanda; likewise, Modi is the first Indian PM to visit that country. Rwanda, with which India has had a strategic partnership since 2017, is also a recipient of Indian Lines of Credit (LoC) of nearly $400 million. 

During Modi’s two-day visit to Rwanda on July 23 and 24, India will finalise two more LoCs – one for $100 million for the development of industrial parks and the Kigali special economic zone and another for $100 million for agriculture and irrigation.

The Chinese president will also be meeting his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall for the third time. Beijing invested $100 million in the country last year and has become Senegal’s biggest trading partner after France. 

“India and China are competing for political space and economic/natural resources opportunities in Africa”, explained strategic affairs expert C Uday Bhaskar. China has diplomatic missions in 43 African countries. India has 29 resident missions in Africa. To expand its outreach on the continent, the Indian government, early this year, approved 18 new diplomatic missions that are to be established over a four-year period ending 2021. 

Bhaskar added that considering that both India and China are looking for “long term energy options” around the world, there is “logic to the priority being accorded to Africa by both these countries.” 

“Beijing has certain tangible advantages, including its deeper pockets and proven ability to deliver on large infrastructure projects. India’s advantages are its soft power prowess, centuryold association with the continent and India is also seen as an IT, computer and cyber-skill provider,” he said. 

“India will have to maximize its strengths and invest in the growth corridor (Asia-Africa growth corridor) with Japan in a such a manner that the perception that India doesn’t walk the talk or it is unable to deliver on promises made is altered in a manner that enhances India’s credibility”, he said.

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