Why has China managed to subdue India in the African continent? With China’s top-level Africa forum set to begin in Beijing on 3-4 September, many nations not invited to the summit will be keeping a close eye. Among them will be China’s neighbour, and regional rival, India. EurAsian Times analyses article from AllAfrica on why China has managed to overwhelm India in Africa, despite massive investments.
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India has its own Africa summit, a triennial event, coming soon. And, like China, its trade with African has progressed by leaps and bounds over the last decade. All too often, however, Delhi’s interest in Africa tends to wane after positive visits.
This time it should stay tuned. Africa can no longer be viewed as sporadic and peripheral interest. Instead, the region should be seen as part and parcel of Delhi’s challenge of recapturing missed strategic space from Beijing’s expansionist attempts. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) along with its expanding military exercises across the Indian Ocean are already serving to redefine India’s own ties with Africa.
India has long-standing political relations with the African continent. It has a profoundly integrated diaspora there. Its founding fathers assisted African countries as they burst the bonds of colonialism and apartheid. Many African countries associated with India against hegemonic powers during the Cold War under the non-aligned movement.
Today, it is mostly commerce that is driving India’s ties with Africa. In 2002-03, two-way trade was a miniscule $6.5 billion. By 2012-13, it had risen to over $70 billion as India’s domestic economy experiences stimulated growth. The expansion has been so speedy that if China were not present, India would be Africa’s largest trading partner. At $63 billion in 2017-18, its trade with Africa easily exceeded that with the US and EU. However, Chinese trade with Africa’s 54 nations stood at approximately $172 billion, almost three times that of India.
India vs China in Africa
Due to massive energy requirements, oil is India’s biggest import from Africa, mainly from Nigeria. Along with gold and diamonds imports, which broadly originate from South Africa, natural resources constitute the majority of India’s Africa trade.
India’s extensive economic relations with Africa are less important than many of its politicians care to admit. India’s investment in Africa amounted to a mere $14 billion by 2016, ranking behind top investors like US, UK, and China.
India’s loans to Africa, which received a $10 billion boost from Indian PM Modi at the 2015 India Africa Summit Forum, are similarly moderate compared $124 billion that China granted between 2000 to 2016.
China’s intensifying military engagement in Africa also gives Beijing a strong footprint in the region. Beijing opened its first military base overseas last year in Djibouti at the western end of what India regards as Chinese “string of pearls”. Clearly, China has the might and the muscle to overpower India in the African region, but Africa is a massive continent and there are extensive opportunities not only for India and China but for all investors.