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Day 88 – Q 5.How is India placed in Africa vis a vis China? What are the potentials and challenges for India in the African continent? Discuss.

5. How is India placed in Africa vis a vis China? What are the potentials and challenges for India in the African continent? Discuss.  

अफ्रीका में भारत की क्या स्थिति है? अफ्रीकी महाद्वीप में भारत के लिए क्या क्षमताएँ और चुनौतियाँ हैं? चर्चा करें।


African continent is increasingly becoming the next theatre of global attraction and

competition because of natural resources, demography and socio-economic development. Both India and China are investing in the continent to reap the benefits.


India in Africa vis a vis China:

  • Development strategy: India see African countries as partners in development as different from China which aims for economic exploitation of the continent with a colonial mindset and use strategies like debt trap.
  • Focus on culture and soft power: China’s sole agenda is economic where as India integrates it with soft power development as well as cultural aspects.
  • Employment: China employ Chinese workers instead of giving employment to locals whereas India is focused on empowerment and employment of locals as well. 
  • Sustainable development: India is concerned about environmental aspect as well which is ignored by China. 
  • Chinese loans come with strict conditions that only Chinese technology will be utilized where as India works on joint implementation and technology transfer.
  • India teams up with countries of similar objectives and plans development projects like Asia-Africa growth corridor with Japan.

Chinese trade with African countries stands at $220billion compared to around $70 billion of India. 

However, with a sustainable model, India is at the forefront of foreign investments in Africa and surpass China in many countries. E.g. Indian corporations have attained near complete control of the local oil and natural gas industry in Sudan, Indian Essar group in Zimbabwe. 


  • Resource rich region: Africa has untapped natural resources and provide eoigh opportunity for Indian investment.
  • Soft power: India maintains healthy relations with almost every African country which can be utilized to make favourable trade deals as well as increase the people-people connect.
  • Reform in global institutions- India’s ambition to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council makes it imperative that it engages with all 54 countries of the continent.
  • Convergence of interest- Two partners are aligned on the outstanding issues at the World Trade Organization (WTO), UN and other multilateral forums which can be utilized.
  • India has opportunities in exports of Pharmaceutical Products, Automobiles, Textiles and more importantly people in a fast-growing Africa.
  • Africa being an oil rich continent can take the pressure of Indian dependence on west Asia on oil.
  • India has numerous advantages, including proximity, a common language, popularity of Indian culture, and the appeal of democracy.


  • Political instability: Political instability in number of African Nation may impact India’s long-term investment opportunities. E.g. South Sudan experiencing civil war since 2013(civil unrest in 2019), Algeria protests.
  • Terrorism in Africa: There has been an extraordinary increase in terrorist attacks by extremists connected to al-Qaida and ISIS across Africa over the recent years.
  • Attacks on Africans in India: There has been a spate of assaults on Africans based in India. It will generate a negative image of India in Africa and may impact on century-old ties with the continent.
  • Lack of Coordination between Indian State and its businesses in Africa and the role of India Inc. is limited while drafting policies. This limits the strengths of both actors that can be leveraged.
  • Financial Limitations: India cannot compete with China or US vis a vis cheque book diplomacy. 
  • China’s strong presence in the continent: China is a strong competitor for India in Africa. Africa China trade amounts to US$220 billion. China even built up its first overseas military base in Djibouti.


While China’s aggressive economic approach has caused it to achieve more influence in Africa than any other country, its dominance is slowly being impeded by India’s growing involvement in the region. Instead of cut throat competition, both the countries have to maintain a balance integrating the development plans. India has to build on goodwill and soft power and utilize on its agenda of Joint development contrasting China.

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