India must walk the talk in its outreach to the continent

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama during their talks over the tea at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Atul Yadav (PTI1_25_2015_000266B) *** Local Caption ***

Modi tour 4 nations in Africa:

TOI  Editorial,  July 8, 2016

                   (Note:  For two things Modiji has to be complimented: 1. The frequency with which he makes foreign tours, 2. Visiting more than one country in one tour following the principle: two birds at one shot. Business contacts and deals take place  through social, personal contacts. So the importance of maintaining good relationship between peoples and countries. In this context several kinds of illtreatments, even murder  recently of African students in India, had nearly sullied the image of India. Some even labeled us a racist country. Adidhi Devo Bhava! We have to treat our foreign visitors, tourists or students as our honored guests. Only James Kottorthen we will get similar treatment when we visit other countries. In our social and cultural relations with African people our aim should be to present ourselves as more gentlemanly and polite than they are, emulating and appreciating their good qualities. james kottoor, editor)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing four-nation Africa tour to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya marks a continuation of India’s outreach to the continent. Following the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in October last year that saw more than 50 African countries participate, the pace of two-way engagements has picked up. Modi’s visit was preceded by President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari undertaking separate tours of African nations. All of this highlights a new sense of urgency on New Delhi’s part to boost its Africa connect.

This in turn is driven by the insight that Africa should no longer be viewed as a basket case. The continent is among the fastest growing regions of the world. Consider that the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2015 found that since 2000 the rate of growth of millionaires in Africa was faster than the global average by a factor of four. Even more critically the report highlighted that the wealth of those above the lower middle-class threshold in Africa had grown by 140% compared to a global average of 113%. This suggests a growing African middle class hungering for goods and services.

Against this backdrop, it’s underwhelming that India’s trade with Africa stands at just $72 billion when China-Africa trade has already surpassed $200 billion. True, India and China have very different strengths and approaches. China’s Africa push is powered by state-owned enterprises while India’s outreach is driven by private sector companies. India has the advantage of a sizeable diaspora in Africa which Modi will seek to tap during his tour to serve as a bridge between the two sides. In fact, a people-centric approach focussed on services will put India-Africa ties on a firmer footing.

Towards this end, India’s Exim Bank is looking to disburse close to Rs 10,000 crore in Africa over the next three years with an eye on services export. This will provide a fillip to sectors such as healthcare, education and IT – areas which are seen as India’s strengths. Meanwhile, India needs Africa’s natural resources to power its next phase of industrial growth. But African nations have long complained of the Indian side failing to walk the talk. If the two are to synergise their efforts to combat common challenges such as poverty, they must go beyond the rhetoric and start delivering.

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