White all the focus has been on China's already overwhelming presence in Africa, India has been pushing its own case, albeit more quietly. Both volumes of trade and levels of investment have increased very considerably over the past decade, more especially over the past five years.
While China's main focus has been on the continent's extractive resources, India has been developing the billion-strong African market for its manufacturing, pharmaceutical, IT and health service industries. But, like China, it appears to have an endless demand for energy, especially coal and oil, which Africa has in abundance. Given its historic connections to the continent, going back thousands of years, and the presence of high-calibre entrepreneurs of Indian stock in Africa, it is surprising that India's involvement in Africa has only recently begun to assume substantial proportions. Given their complementary requirements, the India-Africa relationship should be one made in heaven.
China has been regularly making the headlines for its rapidly increasing economic presence across Africa. Less in the media spotlight is India, which is also, though more discreetly, developing an impressively large business presence, with an involvement in everything from gold to pharmaceuticals. Today India has emerged as Africa's fourth-largest trading partner, behind the EU, China and the US.
According to Anand Sharma, India's Trade Minister, trade between India, Asia's third-largest economy, and Africa was worth a healthy $45bn in 2010-11 and is expected to grow beyond $75bn by 2015. Between 2004-5 and 2009-10, trade between the continent and India grew fourfold, from $9.6bn to $35bn. Indian exports to Africa rose from $5.6bn to $13.5bn over the same period.
The trade balance is in the favour of Africa, as the continent exports more goods to India than it imports. India's imports from Africa grew from $587.5m to $18.8bn, between 1990 and 2009, while exports to the continent increased from $436.8m to $13.5bn during the same period.
The trend has been encouraged by India's duty free tariff preferential scheme, announced in 2008, for a total of 48 least developed countries (LDCs). Thirty-three African countries are part of the scheme and cover 94% of India's total tariff lines.
In addition to energy, trade in other sectors such as transport equipment, services, health and agriculture are also expected to continue to increase. With Africa's growth rate in...