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India woos Africa with technology and credit as China has larger access

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In Mozambique, India is building a solar panel plant that will help the southern African country harness renewable energy. Cameroon, in Central Africa, has sought India’s help in fighting the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. In Ethiopia, Indian technical and financial aid has helped transform the country into a major sugar producer, creating tens of thousands of jobs.

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More than 40 African leaders are in New Delhi for a summit to explore how Indian investment and technology can help a resurgent Africa face its development challenges.

The summit, which starts Thursday, was preceded by meetings of trade and foreign ministers from nearly all 54 African nations.

“It gives you an idea of the significance India has attached to its engagement with Africa,” said Ruchita Beri, an Africa specialist at New Delhi’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

In exchange, India hopes for a share of Africa’s vast natural resources to power its own growth, as well as the support of African states to boost its profile as a global power. It also wants to ensure it is not completely overshadowed on the continent by its neighbour and rival, China.

Over the past decade, China has plowed billions of dollars into Africa, building roads, bridges and power installations in return for access to markets and resources.

“The Chinese presence in Africa is increasing day by day, and I don’t think we can compare India’s involvement in Africa with that of China,” Beri said.

“It’s not just China. Others are there as well in the scramble for resources. Japan, the United States, and several emerging markets, such as Malaysia, Brazil, Turkey, are all looking at Africa in their quest for resources,” she said.

India’s major imports from Africa are resources and minerals, including crude oil, coal, gemstones and gold. African countries are a big market for Indian-made pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles and processed petroleum products, with trade growing at a fast clip.

Indian officials say trade has grown 20 times since 2000, and doubled in the last five years to reach nearly $72 billion in 2014.

India and many African countries “are the most rapidly growing developing economies in the world,” said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

India’s relations with Africa are not just centred on business, officials emphasize. New Delhi has also provided millions of dollars in educational and humanitarian aid.

In the last five years, 25,000 African students have received scholarships to study in India. A major chunk of India’s development aid has been spent on setting up technical institutes, educational facilities, hospitals and training programs across Africa.

Indian credit has topped $7.4 billion and has led to the creation of about 137 projects in 41 countries, ministry official Navtej Sarna said.

“Don’t forget, we have been partners with Africa in capacity building since early days,” Sarna said. “We were there as the earliest peacekeepers. We were there with the major struggles that Africa had against colonialism and discrimination and apartheid.”

The long-standing ties were reflected in bilateral meetings with Swaraj on Tuesday and Wednesday when African leaders presented their wish-lists. Source

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