Over the last two days, nearly 400 political and business leaders from 34 African countries have been in Delhi, India. They were attending the sixth India-Africa business conclave, which was organised jointly by the Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM BANK), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of External Affairs.
India is increasing its presence in Africa year on year. India’s bilateral trade with 53 nations in Africa is currently around $39 billion and is expected to rise to $70 billion by 2015. At this week’s meeting, nearly 150 business projects worth at least $10 billion were discussed; these focus on capacity-building, training and private sector investments. The emphasis of India’s engagement with Africa is on equal relations, mutual benefits and cross-cultural understandings. In an oblique reference to the differences with China, India points out that its model of engagement is collaborative, empowering and not profit-seeking. Following a successful India-Africa Summit in 2008, a second is scheduled for 2011.
The issue of South-South engagement has been of increasing interest over recent years, not just to academics but also to governments, businesses and civil society organisations. In particular there has been a wealth of research documenting China’s relationship with Africa. Mawdsley and McCann’s article in Geography Compass (2010) seeks to redress this imbalance by examining India’s relationship with Africa. Their paper gives an overview of contemporary relations between India and Africa, in particular looking at changing geographical interest, trade and investment, development cooperation, and geopolitics and diplomacy. This timely review provides a useful background to the events taking place in India.