The two Asian powers and strategic rivals, India and China are putting their best foot forward in Africa, competing hard for power and influence in the dire and seemingly, opportune times of the coronavirus pandemic.
Africa is a continent of vast unexplored opportunities like the fastest growing youth population in the world, a considerable amount of oil and other natural resources and human capital at its disposal.
Speaking of economy, the two of Asia’s biggest economies and strategic rivals, China and India have found their new battleground in Africa. While both India and China have engaged in Africa for long, it is China’s deep pockets that have led it to gain a-far greater influence in the continent.
Investments in Africa by China have been growing for more than a decade. In 2017-18, China-Africa bilateral trade was around $185 billion. In comparison, India-Africa bilateral trade in 2017-18 was nearly $63 billion.
China’s aid to Africa
China, once the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic is now offering assistance to a plethora of nations worldwide and the African nations haven’t seemed to have missed the list.
Beijing has almost been racing to help the continent and imprinting its influence. Containers packed with masks, ventilators, test kits and protective suits had made their way to Africa along with many medics who were dispatched as advisors in some African nations.
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his foundation also attempted to help the continent and made large donations to Rwanda, Cameroon and many other countries in the continent.
The effort by the Chinese billionaire was praised by Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a tweet and extensively thanked Chinese Jack Ma for his “generous donation.”
Our 3rd donation to Africa will immediately be made to @_africanunion and @AfricaCDC. This includes 4.6m masks, 500k swabs & test kits, 300 ventilators, 200k clothing sets, 200k face shields, 2k thermal guns, 100 body temp. scanners and 500k pairs of gloves. #OneWorldOneFight
— Jack Ma Foundation (@foundation_ma) April 20, 2020
Stephen Chan, a Professor of Politics and International Relations at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) told DW News that, China’s relief efforts are urgently needed.
Thank you @JackMa and @foundation_ma for your generous donation of test kits delivered in Kigali today. This is a huge shot in the arm and a much needed contribution in our work to stop the spread of #Coronavirus. I know the people of Rwanda join me in gratitude
— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) March 20, 2020
“They supply masks, ventilators and testing equipment — all of which Africa lacks,” Chan says, adding that Beijing is doing this to cement its diplomatic ties with Africa. The support amid the pandemic, can, therefore, be seen as a continuation of this partnership and as a sign of goodwill.
India’s Aid to Africa
In the light of the pandemic, where India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people are under lockdown and continues to battle the pandemic, has still pledged to help the lesser stable African nations.
New Delhi on April 7 had announced that it would supply essential medicine to some badly-hit nations, citing “humanitarian aspects of the pandemic.”
Indian PM Narendra Modi had recently assured New Delhi’s unrelenting support to South Africa, Egypt and Seychelles in maintaining essential medical supplies to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.
To ensure availability of pharmaceutical supplies during these difficult times, New Delhi recently identified 55 countries for the supply of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarian drug that has been touted by many experts as useful in treating COVID-19 cases. Out of these 55 countries, around 20-22 countries were from Africa.
India, having frequently supported many African nations during cyclones and flooding has developed strong diplomatic and humanitarian ties with the continent.
However, while India itself battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the Modi government has continued to strengthen ties between India and Africa during these challenging times while also challenging the influence of China in the lucrative continent.