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India's Modi seeks to drum up business in African tour

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 19:57
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday kicked off a four-nation tour of Africa, as India scrambles to catch up with its Asian rival China's strong presence on the continent.

[MAPUTO, Mozambique] Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday kicked off a four-nation tour of Africa, as India scrambles to catch up with its Asian rival China's strong presence on the continent.

"My Africa tour, aimed at enhancing ties between India and Africa, will begin from Mozambique in a brief but key visit," Mr Modi tweeted before his arrival, the first by an Indian leader to the southern African country in 34 years.

Mr Modi held talks with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in Maputo and will also take in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya during the five-day tour.

India has been working to build ties with African nations as it vies for a greater share of the continent's natural resources. Last year, it hosted a summit of Africa's heads of state in New Delhi.

Its economic footprint in Africa is dwarfed by that of China, whose trade with the continent topped US$200 billion last year.

But India is gaining ground, led by private entrepreneurs with a keen interest in the continent's burgeoning energy sector.

Mr Modi's Africa tour will focus on hydrocarbons, maritime security, trade and investment, agriculture and food, according to Indian officials.

Later Thursday, Mr Modi will head to South Africa for a two-day state visit, holding talks with President Jacob Zuma on Friday in Pretoria and meeting business leaders.

India is now South Africa's sixth largest trade partner, with two-way trade reaching US$5.3 billion in 2015-16.

South Africa has been vocal on the need to reform the UN Security Council, making it a natural ally in India's long-running campaign to be made a permanent member.

India and Africa are together home to a third of the world's population, but neither India nor any African country has a permanent seat on the council, which is made up of China, Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

With 1.3 million people of Indian origin, South Africa also has the largest diaspora population in Africa, a major element of Mr Modi's diplomatic push across the world since taking office two years ago.

On Friday evening, he will address a thousands-strong audience at a stadium in Johannesburg, having hosted similar rallies for the diaspora in cities from New York to London.

While in South Africa, Modi is also expected to honour Mahatma Gandhi's time in the country.

India's independence hero lived in South Africa for 20 years, working as a lawyer and activist campaigning for the rights of Indian people.

AFP