After Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, it’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s turn to visit Africa. President Mukherjee embarked on a six-day trip to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia in June as a part of New Delhi’s Africa outreach programme. Now, Prime Minister Modi will visit Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya from July 7-11 to boost India’s ties with these four nations.

Senior spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup has confirmed the news, saying: “On July 7th, PM Modi will have bilateral discussions with President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi to strengthen our bilateral ties and enhance development and co-operation. From July 8th to 9th in South Africa, Modi will have meetings with President Jacob Zuma and other senior leaders across the political spectrum to enhance our historical relations with South Africa.” According to the spokesperson, the PM may also visit Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban in South Africa.

Later on July 10, the Indian premier and Tanzanian President John Magufuli will explore ways to boost mutual co-operation and understanding on major issues of common interest. Upon his arrival in Nairobi on July 11, he will meet Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Swarup told the press that the PM’s meeting with President Zuma would be an important one, as South Africa was one of the few countries that had reservations on India’s application to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the just-concluded plenary session of the elite Group in Seoul. South Africa’s stand on India’s NSG membership bid surprised New Delhi because the South Asian nation considers the African country as its “old friend”. South Africa is also a member of the BRICS – an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Foreign policy experts are of the opinion that India has started concentrating on Africa in an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in the “Dark Continent”. Rajrishi Singhal, the Senior Geoeconomics Fellow at Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House, has said that India considers Africa as a promising market for Indian goods, services and investments. “This is evident in the Modi government’s recent concerted focus on the India-Africa relationship – high profile visits by top Indian leaders to African countries, a recasting of India’s development diplomacy and an attempt to match action to past promises,” he added.

Singhal explained that Prime Minister Modi has been trying hard to strengthen political and trade ties with different African countries, as he knows that India needs those countries’ backing to get membership of the UN Security Council. India also wants to form a united front of emerging and poor economies at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

As far as trade ties are concerned, India’s bilateral trade with Africa stands at USD 70 billion, way behind the figures of China’s trade with the continent. The volume of China-Africa trade has already exceeded USD 200 billion. In Africa, Prime Minister Modi will definitely seek to boost India’s influence on a continent where rival Asian power China enjoys significant clout. With India and China taking necessary steps to boost ties with Africa, Asia has surpassed Europe as Africa’s biggest trading partner, accounting for around 45% of the continent’s total trade. In a changing global geopolitical landscape, both the Asian giants plan to make Africa their strategic partner mainly to ensure a steady economic growth.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]