Modi eyes trade in tour of 4 African countries

Mozambique is Indian PM's first stop in trip to boost his country's visibility on continent

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Mozambique yesterday for the first visit by an Indian PM in 34 years, kick-starting a five-day tour of four African countries aimed at increasing India's visibility on the continent where China has been dominant for years.

Mr Modi is scheduled to participate in events with Indian expatriates, hold talks with leaders, and woo businesses in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya as well as Mozambique.

Yesterday, he held talks with Mozambique President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, and the two countries signed an agreement that will see the African nation exporting and even cultivating pulses, also known as lentils, for India where the consumption of dal, a dietary staple, far outpaces production.

"India's commitment to buy pulses from Mozambique would help meet India's requirements," Mr Modi said in a statement to the press yesterday.

"It will also facilitate long-term investments in commercial farming, generate farm employment and raise farmers' incomes in this country."

Africa is a growing market for Indian goods and investments, and a source of energy and food.

MUTUAL BENEFITS

India's commitment to buy pulses from Mozambique would help meet India's requirements. It will also facilitate long-term investments in commercial farming, generate farm employment and raise farmers' incomes in this country.

INDIAN PM NARENDRA MODI, on the trade agreement signed yesterday.

Last year, it hosted the largest-ever India-Africa summit that saw the participation of 50 African leaders.

Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari recently visited Tunisia and Morocco while President Pranab Mukherjee toured Western and Southern Africa last month.

Mr Modi is expected to pitch India as a stable trading and investment partner. He will also send a message that Africans are welcome in India, although there have been incidents and complaints that they face racism living in India.

Indian officials said the four countries Mr Modi is visiting on this trip are also important for India's maritime security, as it seeks to emerge as a leader in the Indian Ocean.

"All these four countries are our maritime neighbours across the Indian Ocean... All of them are gateways to the mainland, a number of landlocked countries which are also our important partners," said Mr Amar Sinha, a senior diplomat dealing with India's economic relations in the Ministry of External Affairs.

India has been playing catch-up with China in Africa. Although it cannot match China's volume of trade or investments, some see an opportunity for India to increase its visibility in Africa with the Indian economy poised to grow at more than 7 per cent.

Bilateral trade between Africa and India was US$72 billion (S$97 billion) in 2014-2015, compared with China's US$300 billion.

"When you look at Africa, China is everywhere. India is doing a lot but it is not seen to be visible," said Dr Nivedita Ray, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Indian Council of World Affairs.

"We will see more and more high-level visits between India and Africa."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Modi eyes trade in tour of 4 African countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe