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The Race for Africa

Africa is a continent of both  despair and hope. The cradle of the human civilization has seen numerous calamities like famines, struggled with political instability and low social indicators. However, some African countries, rich in human and natural resources are looking at economic growth and the prosperity that comes with it, some growing at 4-5% per year.

And India and China are in a mad scramble to tap into the African reservoir of resources. Both Asian giants, developing rapidly with healthy growth rates and businesses are looking at the continent with a strategic game plan. Governments of both countries are engaging the region diplomatically, giving billions of dollars worth of credit lines, bilateral treaties and generating trade.

China entered the market much before India, focusing on businesses like oil and mining of natural resources and infrastructure development. China has had to face much criticism for poor treatment of African workers and being in the region for only selfish gains. But then which country engages another if there are no returns? The growing whispers about the Chinese have come from western media, with some saying, the media is playing into the region’s insecurity about the growing Chinese influence.

India, which is playing catch-up with China realized that a stronger foreign policy was required, has gone all out to woo its African counterparts. Indian businesses span telecom, agriculture, goods and services, along with natural resources. The Indians have lauded themselves for building capacity of local workers, employing them in decision making positions along with developing infrastructure. However, India has another important reason for focusing onAfrica – a seat at the UN Security Council. The crucially important support of the African Union can tilt the balance in India’s favour.

However, the old imperialist powers along with USA have expressed their unhappiness over the apparent Asian scramble for African resources. Both countries, and China, more so, are been touted as the neo colonizers. I would tend to agree with experts that these old powers have no right to say this when they themselves have “taken resources from the continent without giving anything back”. And India, which shares the burden of colonialism and a complex post colonial identity, cannot do the same to the continent. India’s colonial legacy ensures that it will be sensitive to Africa. It’s political will shows it, along with examples of conducting business.

Whatever may be the reasons for both countries to look for opportunities in the cradle of civilization, it is clear that as Africa becomes more integrated in the global economy and overcomes political instability, a new future beckons it. It should grab this opportunity with both hands, see its people progress. The next thirty years will see a new world order and Africa could play a crucial role in securing an important position there. The present may belong to India and China, the future could very well belong to Africa.

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