Referring to the increasing Chinese presence in Africa, Virendra Gupta, Indian High Commissioner to Republic of South Africa, on Thursday said there is growing “resentment against China in the African continent”.
“This perception provides us (India) good opportunity... there is vacuum and we have to step up our efforts,” he said.
Addressing a gathering of businessmen, entrepreneurs and strategic analysts at a seminar on, Africa -Opportunities and Challenges for India, organised by Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies (CASS) and Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), he said, “Questions are being asked about the quality of Chinese products and projects. There was always receptivity for India (in Africa), but somewhere consumers may have been blinded by offers extended by China. But people who are cautious know that it is not in their interest. They now need to diversify... a door has been opened for us (India) and we have to make effort ourselves”.
He cited an informal meeting called by prime minister of an African country saying, “He (the PM of the country) was concerned about Chinese presence in their country and wanted to diversify. And he could not think of any other country, but India.”
Gupta emphasised that Indian approach towards Africa is “moralistic” and is different from China because of our “colonial past”.
“We empathise with African people and are cautious that we should not be seen as exploiters... it is therefore our constant message to our businesses (in Africa) to not create an impression of an exploiter,” he said.
Distinguishing the Chinese approach towards Africa, he said, “Countries after countries in Africa have colonies of Chinese people, who do not integrate with the local population. However, Indians have integrated better in respect of the economy and the people in Africa value the work Indians have done in Africa.”
Stating that the India-Africa trade has increased from $20 billion to $70 billion in the last 10-12 years, Gupta said the Indian companies, especially Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), have tremendous scope in Africa in fields such as renewable energy, IT, manufacturing, besides the existing industrial bases such as pharmaceuticals, mining, textile, refined petroleum products.
The diplomat pegged the “cumulative Indian investment in Africa at $50 billion, probably fourth after European Union, China and USA” and specified that “Indian investment should follow long-term perspective”.
Referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s role in Africa, the diplomat summed up by saying, “People are not interested in Gandhi. They are interested