ADDIS ABABA, May 24 – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told African leaders on Tuesday that India will offer $5 billion in loans to nurture economic growth on the continent, where China is already a big step ahead.
"Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world in the 21st century. We will work with Africa to enable it to realise this potential," Singh told a trade summit here.
"I\’m happy to announce that India will continue to support efforts at infrastructure development, regional integration and capacity building and human resources development in Africa," the prime minister said.
The south Asian country will notably offer African nations $5 billion (3.6 billion euros) in credit lines over three years, he told the summit.
At the last India-Africa summit in New Delhi in 2008, India offered $5.4 billion in concessionary credit lines over a five-year period.
Some of the human resources projects India has set up on the continent and plans to develop further include the India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade in Uganda, the India-Africa Institute of Information Technology in Ghana, the India-Africa Diamond Institute in Botswana, and the India-Africa Institute of Education, Planning and Administration in Burundi.
New projects it is planning include a food processing cluster and textiles cluster so that Africa can export processed products rather than raw materials.
Singh also cited bodies for weather forecasting, life and earth sciences and agriculture and rural development.
"In the three years since the first India-Africa summit, Indian trade and investment in Africa have significantly increased," noted Alex Vines of the London-based think-tank Chatham House in a report last week.
Last year, India\’s imports from Africa were worth $20.7 billion, compared with $18.7 billion the previous year, and its exports stood at $10.3 billion.
India\’s investment in Africa is mainly in the private sector, notably in telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.
"Trade and investment flows as well as transfer of technology have significantly benefitted from growing private sector exchanges between India and Africa. We should actively encourage such flows to supplement government efforts in integrating our economies," Singh said.
Whatever the increase, India\’s trade statistics remain dwarfed by the Chinese presence. China has mainly built infrastructure in exchange for access to resources and its bilateral trade with the continent in 2010 totalled $126.9 billion, according to official figures.
Africa, despite being home to most of the world\’s poorest countries, is richly endowed with minerals, oil and other natural resources.
India has been looking to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dependency on the Middle East which supplies two-thirds of its energy imports.
Among the African leaders at the summit were Kenya\’s Mwai Kibaki, Senegal\’s Abdoulaye Wade and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, the African Union chairman.
India also aims to bolster its diplomatic and security presence in Africa.
In 2008, its navy joined anti-piracy patrols on the key shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean where rampaging Somali pirates continue to hijack merchant vessels.
Both regions also back each other for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council under envisaged reforms of the world body.
India has come in for criticism from rights groups and the west, although to a lesser extent than China, for not making its projects on the African continent conditional on its partners\’ human rights\’ records.
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