India-China competition benefiting Africa: Diplomats

May 24th, 2011 - 11:11 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chandigarh, May 24 (IANS) Growing competition between India and China is helping African countries get quality expertise and investments from two of Asia’s fastest growing economies, say African diplomats.

“We are happy that there is intense competition between India and China to gain African markets. It is very good for us,” said Katureebee Tayebwa, counsellor at the Ugandan High Commission in New Delhi.

“These countries are ready to make huge investments in various African nations without any conditions. They are obviously giving stiff competition to the US and European countries,” Tayebwa told IANS here.

“I am sure the role of the World Bank will also become irrelevant in the coming days. The World Bank gives us money but imposes so many conditions. We do not want conditions, we want money. We want investments that will be of mutual benefit.”

India has rejected several times the contention that it is competing with China to push its economic interests in the continent, saying both nations were playing a complementary role. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is currently on a six-day trip to the African nations of Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Tayebwa said Uganda offers many opportunities for Indian investors in areas including infrastructure, construction, education and manufacturing.

“Both India and Uganda were ruled by the British and we have decades-old ties and many common things. Uganda is progressing very fast as figures show. Around 20 years back, 56 percent of our population was living below the poverty line, but this figure has reduced to just 22 percent,” he said.

According to official figures, the total bilateral trade between India and Africa during the first two quarters of the financial year 2010-11 (April-September) stood at $23.7 billion.

Some diplomats, like Vicente Paulo C. Chihale, commercial counselor at the Mozambique High Commission, however, feel the Chinese take faster decisions.

“It’s really difficult to compare China with India. The Chinese government is very proactive compared to India when it comes to investment. If they say they will invest 500,000 dollars, they will immediately do it but in India, things take some time.,” said Chihale.

“Currently India is the fourth biggest international investor in Mozambique and South Africa. China is way ahead. We have come here because we want potential investors from this part the country. We want them to invest in raw material, bio-fuels, coal mines and tourism.”

African diplomats had come to Chandigarh to take part in a seminar titled “Africa: Business Opportunities”.

“India is an important country for us; from here we can get both capital and technical knowhow. Though our priority is always agriculture, we want Indian investors to also invest in software, infrastructure, real estate, education and tourism. Many Indian companies like Tata, Bharti and Reliance are already working in Tanzania,” Leluu Omary, first secretary (economic and political) at the Tanzania High Commission, told IANS.

“We have a strong conviction that today’s ties with India would yield high dividends in the coming years. Therefore the Tanzanian government is open for any kind of deal with this one of the fastest growing economies,” she said, adding many Indians are based in Tanzania and they are mainly into mining and farming.

“The two-way trade volume between Tanzania and India has been steadily increasing. Trade volume between the two countries has increased from $162.03 million in 2001-02 to $ 1,158.53 million in 2009-10,” she added.

Nigerian High Commissioner Adebola O. Labiran told IANS: “We are getting a lot of inquiries on a daily basis from Indian investors and corporates who want to start a business venture in Nigeria. But we see various parameters before assisting them, like they should be well organised and the deal should be of mutual interest.”

“We are also giving many incentives to new investors like tax holidays for up to 10 years and giving land on very economical leases. Currently the European Union is the major investor in Nigeria and it is mainly into oil and gas.

“We also have (India’s) ONGC, GAIL and Mittals operational there,” he said.

Labiran said the share of Africa in India’s export has increased from 4.1 percent to 5.8 percent between 2000-01 and 2009-10.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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