India raises its profile in Africa

Indian Prime Minister Modi meets South Africa’s President Zuma in Pretoria
July 8, 2016: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) met with South African President Jacob Zuma during the second stop of a four-country African trip (source: dpa)
  • India is ramping up investment and soft-power initiatives in east Africa
  • Military training and security cooperation play a key role in New Delhi’s strategy
  • Mozambique, a key FDI destination, will be a difficult test case given its shaky politics
  • Push is constrained by Indian companies’ wariness about African commitments

Africa has been targeted by a diplomatic offensive from India over the past seven months. Leading the spearhead was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made a four-nation swing along the continent’s Indian Ocean littoral in July. Preceding this trip were visits by President Pranab Mukherjee to West Africa and by Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari to Morocco and Tunisia.

Mr. Modi carefully chose Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa for his diplomatic safari. These countries display the closest convergence of India’s three dominant interests in Africa. First is burgeoning trade and investment ties, which New Delhi is anxious to promote. Second is an ambitious program to woo the hearts and minds of Africa’s new middle class by offering education and other services from Indian providers. Third is a desire to reinforce India’s strategic position, helping it contain Chinese influence and Islamist terror networks.

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