India upping its game against the backdrop of China emerging in Africa

An Indian promise to reviving a textile factory in Kenya in less than three years has been completed. Covered under a line of credit worth $29.95 million extended during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit,  the contract to upgrade the factory was carried out by an Indian private company, Lakshmi Machine Works Ltd (LMW), which officially completed the project in June. The renovated factory was inaugurated in the third week of June by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in the presence of Indian high commissioner to Kenya Rahul Chhabra.

India  has also completed the renovation of the Mahatma Gandhi Graduate Library at the University of Nairobi through a grant of $1 million. These projects are an example of how Indian assistance is making a difference to the economy and lives of people in African countries. The development partnership between India and Kenya is significant as it comes amid murmurs of protest on the African continent over China’s terms of engagement with countries while extending loans for infrastructure projects.

India has completed big-ticket projects recently in Africa including the construction of the presidential office in Ghana, the National Assembly building in Gambia, and the Kosti power plant in Sudan. Africa is a key development partner of India garnering a sizeable portion of India’s lines of credit assistance of $28 billion extended in 2018-19. Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in one of his first public statements after taking office in May, said that project delivery would be a key focus area. At an event in New Delhi, Jaishankar said he would hold monthly reviews of India’s development projects to ensure their timely delivery. In the past, there have been complaints of time and cost overruns, giving India the reputation of being a well meaning partner but whose efficiency in delivering on time is questionable.

India upping its game comes against the backdrop of China emerging as the single largest financier of African infrastructure, financing one in five projects and constructing one in three, according to a paper by Deloitte Africa. According to the same, to date China has participated in more than 200 African infrastructure projects. Chinese enterprises have completed and are building projects that are designed to help add to or upgrade about 30,000 km of highways, 2,000 km of railways, 85 million tonnes per year of port throughput capacity, more than nine million tonnes per day of clean water treatment capacity, about 20,000MW of power generation capacity, and more than 30,000km of transmission and transformation lines.

China in Africa is facing some backlash with Tanzania suspending a port project worth $10bn and Kenya halting construction on a coal power plant stating that financing terms presented by the Chinese were “exploitative and awkward".

Analysts say that while India has a long way to go in catching up with China vis a vis undertaking big ticket infrastructure projects, there is some realisation in Africa that Beijing’s terms of engagement are maybe less than desirable and this could present India with an opportunity to take on more projects in Africa.


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