Forty heads of state, out of 54 invitees, will take part after a series of meetings, to hold the India-Africa Forum Summit on 29 October. This summit is the third of its kind.
Though India’s economic growth overtook China’s, its economy is still one-fifth the size and lacks and the financial heft to challenge Beijing in a head-to-head contest for the African market.
“India cannot match the Chinese in terms of its resources—but any engagement we do with the Africans at least gives them a choice,” said C Raja Mohan, a foreign policy commentator, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi.
Trade between China and Africa increased to $200 billion, as the world’s No.2 economy sucks in oil, coal and metals to feed its industrial machine.
“The focus of our relationship is on Africa’s needs and India’s strengths,” said Vikas Swarup, external affairs ministry spokesperson.
Trade ministers from India and Africa are looking to make common cause at a WTO ministerial meeting in Nairobi next month, said commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Meanwhile, India has been criticised by human rights groups for inviting Omar al-Bashir, the president of oil-rich Sudan wanted by International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur.
State-run oil company ONGC, which has fields in Sudan and South Sudan, is on the hunt to buy $12 billion in foreign assets over the next three years and has identified Africa as an investment target. Also India wants to buy coal from South Africa to feed its steel industry. South Africa is already a coal supplier to India.