Increasing Indian presence in Africa
Indian investments in Africa have increased dramatically over the last few years. In an East African country like Ethiopia for instance, this increase took off in 2006 – around the time when food prices started to rise internationally. Many of the investments concern land and agricultural projects.
With this background, a workshop was recently held in the Indian city of Mumbai: “India, Africa and Food Security – Between the Summits”. Later this year the second India – Africa summit will be held. Food security and investments in land and agriculture will be important issues on the agenda. Unlike China, India is promoting a dialogue at a continental level in Africa, with the African Union as its counterpart.
The Mumbai seminar was organized by NAI in collaboration with the Centre for African Studies at the University of Mumbai, and the UNDP Centre for South-South collaboration. Participants came from a number of African countries, as well as from BRICS-countries, such as Brazil and Russia.
A large section of the seminar dwelled on what strategies Indian investors are pursuing. Representatives from corporations involved in irrigation systems and other agricultural technologies, as well as from the Indian Ex-Im-Bank took part. This bank is providing Indian investors with credits and guarantees in their overseas activities. In addition the Africa head at the Indian foreign ministry, Mr. Gurjit Singh, presented the Indian strategy towards Africa.
Indian investments in Africa have a long history. Indian business interests have been present in East Africa well over a century. Many Indians have over the years immigrated to African countries, quite a few of them promoting businesses of various sorts. However, the current trend is a radically increased level of investments taking place, and this time not least in the field of agriculture. A central question is whether Indian investors, emerging from a market that in many ways show similarities with African markets and conditions, may and will do things differently than investors from other parts of the world? Is this a matter of “south-south” collaboration with a development objective? Or does the current trend rather signify the emergence of just some new markets actors, similar to most others when it comes to types of investments and behavior?
A contested issue during the seminar was what expected future Indian domestic food deficits would imply to the India – Africa relations. Will Indian land acquisitions in East Africa be a basis for increased food exports to India? And if so - how would that impact on food security in African countries? A rich and very relevant research agenda seems to be in the making. The seminar will as well provide some policy conclusions as an input to the upcoming India – Africa summit later this year.