Week 8: India in Africa

The readings for this week operate as valuable supplements to the discussion on “South-South” relations in this course, and particularly the current-day binding effects of globalization specifically between Asia and Africa. It is important to however, not assume that India and China can be grouped together in this discussion, but instead acknowledge that India and China have completely different approaches to their extension of business in Africa and at times, they may view see each other as competitors in this regard.

Taylor mentions the possible motives for India’s rebirth of interest in Africa as repercussions of the Cold War, however I believe there are alternative reasons apart from the ripple-effects of ideological divides from the West. Noting the history of Indian migrations through Africa and the long-standing Indo-East African Diaspora sparked in the 1970’s during Idi Amin’s ‘Africanization’ process, I am curious of the meanings of these new private business investments in Africa by Indians. I also wonder how those who are second- and third-generation Indian-Africans perceive newly arrived Indians to these African states where there have been longer-standing Indian-Africans. Taylor did mention that, “African confusion of African citizens of Indian descent with new arrivals from India complicates perceptions of ‘Indian’ activities” (p. 782).

In comparing China and India’s involvement with Africa, it is interesting to note Taylor’s discussion of India’s commitment to constructing capacity-building institutions in Africa. This supports the argument that recent Indian involvement in Africa is justifiable because of the developmental benefits it produces in comparison to China’s strict imposition in major extractive industries in the continent. However, there are many aspects of India’s activities in this regard which go “under-the-radar” and by which India is not being held accountable. This then begs the question of not only the practice of democracy in India, but also the potency of Western concepts, such as human rights, in newly emerging South-South partnerships.

I find it difficult to find answers to questions surrounding the motives and future of India and China’s presence in Africa when speaking about Africa as a though, continentally, it is a uniform beneficiary of these outside forces. This is why I appreciate the chapters by Modi and Patey, because they hone in on particular effects of Indian business endeavors as they relate to specific African countries. From this, it is easier to think critically about the future of offshore healthcare as well as the potential for domestic Indian-managed healthcare systems in Kenya and Tanzania as Modi discusses. Additionally, looking at the specific case study Patey provides, it is easier to interrogate the realities of India’s daring oil investments in Sudan and what this means in terms of security for foreign investments and the international gaze of human rights and ethical business in East Africa.

Question:

Considering the history of East Indian presence in Africa, as mentioned in the beginning of Taylor’s article, what are some of the social and cultural implications of the recent Indo-African relations being discussed?

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