Africa boasts great potential for China-India cooperation
Published: Jul 23, 2018 09:33 PM

With both President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying visits to Africa, speculation about competition for influence in the resource-rich continent is being fueled again. President Xi arrived in Africa Saturday on a four-nation tour that takes in Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, while Modi kicked off his three-nation trip Monday from Rwanda to Uganda and South Africa. Many Indian media outlets describe the back-to-back visits by the leaders of China and India to African countries as an intense diplomatic race. 

Over the past decade, China and India, two emerging global powers, have become Africa's most important economic partners and both have been making sustained efforts to cement ties with the continent. Some observers believe that China and India are vying for influence in the continent. It's tempting and easy to fall for this facile construct of India-China rivalry in Africa, but such clichés fail to grasp the whole picture.

The common presence of the two countries in Africa doesn't necessarily lead to cut-throat competition. Considering the fact that China and India can complement each other due to their own advantages in Africa, they can instead cooperate with each other to fulfill the responsibilities of major powers.

China is a significant contributor to building Africa's infrastructure and is good at providing investment and technology, while India excels in aiding Africa in developing human resources through education, vocational training and skill development. Besides, thanks to an important African population of Indian descent on the continent, India has maintained better non-governmental relations with African countries than China. As China is continually ramping up support for Africa's economic development through the Belt and Road initiative, there are vast opportunities for cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi.

Given Africa's size and its ever-growing development needs, there is enough scope for both India and China to exploit the opportunities the continent offers them. China is willing to see India deepening cooperation with Africa. It can also benefit if India's engagement with African countries can spur local development, and vice-versa.

The narrative that portrays Africa as a battlefield of great powers vying for influence is nothing more than a neo-colonialist mindset which should be discarded. Of course it's unrealistic to say there is no competition between China and India. However, the negative effect of the competition should not be exaggerated. For African countries, be it China or India, more partners will bring them more assistance and cooperative opportunities, which will contribute to their development.

As President Xi once said, India and China share remarkable complementary advantages and significant potential for cooperation in various fields.

In a third-party market like Africa that does not involve each other's core interests, China and India should particularly explore opportunities for cooperation, build mutual trust and achieve a win-win-win situation for the three sides.

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