English Hindi


Prelims Capsule

International Relations

Is China becoming Africa’s new colonial power? China’s debt trap diplomacy in Africa

Is China becoming Africa’s new colonial power? China’s debt trap diplomacy in Africa


  • GS 2 || International Relations || India & its Neighbor || China

Why in the news?

Africa today is a continent of growth and opportunities. India and China is seeing it as an opportunity for investments.


  • Africa is now a continent of opportunity and prosperity.
  • Africa is set to be a key growth force in the global economy, with the world’s youngest and fastest-growing youth population and enormous natural resources and human capital at its disposal.
  • Positive winds of change are blowing over Africa, which now has half of the world’s top 10 fastest expanding economies.
  • Africa is a chance, one that is being formed by and for the people of Africa.

What is the strategic importance of Africa or why Africa is important?

  • External powers have re-engaged in Africa because to the wealth of natural resources, the expansion of Muslim extremist organizations, and the rising South-North migration.
  • Predictions of a geopolitical clash between China and the United States in Africa appear to be premature.
  • External powers and African governments both have a role to play in ensuring that rising aid and investment inflows become a driver for economic progress and political stability in Africa.
  • On the continent, there has been modest progress toward political stability and economic prosperity.
  • Democracy and the rule of law are improving, despite the fact that events in Kenya and Zimbabwe show that progress is still fragile. In addition, African economies have expanded at a rate of 5% or more over the past five years, with private capital inflows to the continent quickly growing.
  • Thirst for resources: The growing demand for natural resources is one of the main factors driving Africa’s strategic and economic growth. In terms of energy, the continent has 10% of the world’s proven oil reserves, about two thirds of which are situated in Nigeria, Algeria, and Libya, and 8% of proven gas reserves, about 80% of which lie in Nigeria, Algeria, and Egypt. While the amount of proven energy reserves may seem small compared to the Middle East, Africa has become the fastest-growing oil producing region worldwide.

Strategies of China in Africa:

  • Infrastructural projects: With its economic strength, China has spent extensively in numerous infrastructural projects in Africa, establishing itself as a major role in the continent.
  • Utilize Natural resources: China began economic liberalization long before India, and with its vast industrial base, made significant inroads into Africa, devising an efficient plan to utilize the continent’s natural resources. As a result, China has a powerful lobby in Africa.
  • Net security supplier: In Africa, India has had a non-interventionist stance since independence. China, on the other hand, constructed a military facility in Djibouti and serves as the region’s net security supplier.
  • China dominance: Africa has a large need for industrial and human resources, which China has successfully exploited to build supremacy.
  • Persuade African: China has also used its permanent membership in the UN Security Council to persuade African countries that it will successfully address their problems at the UN.

Strategies of India in Africa:

  • Decrease supremacy of China: More than any other country, China has made significant advances into Africa. However, India’s rising participation in the area is gradually displacing its supremacy.
  • Enhance cultural and historical linkages: To enhance economic connections with resource-rich nations such as Sudan, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, India has focused on highlighting its cultural and historical linkages with the area.
  • Soft Power: India’s soft power approach has worked, as evidenced by Indian firms’ near-total dominance of the local oil and gas industry in Sudan.
  • China’s hegemony challenged: China’s hegemony in the energy and resource industries is being challenged in Zimbabwe by both state-owned and private Indian firms.
  • African countries are progressively favoring India over China for the following reasons:
    • Chinese firms use Chinese employees instead of locals, which equates to no job creation. India, on the other hand, employs and trains locals.
    • Companies in China are more concerned with profits than with environmental preservation.
    • Only Chinese technology may be used as a condition of receiving Chinese financing.

How is India’s approach to Africa different from China’s?

  • People-focused – Improving Africa’s productive capabilities, diversifying skills and knowledge, and investing in SMEs are all on the table.
  • Cross border connection: India’s attempts to improve cross-border connection with Eastern African countries are a logical extension of the country’s people-to-people strategy.
    • This, India believes, would boost investment-led trade and commercial possibilities while also strengthening bilateral ties.
    • India is also attempting to re-establish cultural ties with East Africa through Project Mausam, a Ministry of Culture program that aims to re-establish lost ties with the “Indian Ocean world” – East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, and the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.
    • China, on the other hand, has a more conventional strategy, focusing on resource extraction, infrastructure development, and elite-level wealth generation.
  • Connectivity and linkage – India’s cross-border connectivity projects in Africa are divided into three categories:
    • Connectivity between maritime ports is part of the government’s “Security and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) and SagarMala initiatives.
    • Digital connectivity for tele-education and tele-medicine as part of the Pan African e-Network initiative (launched in 2004)
    • Air link between Indian and African cities via direct flights.
    • China, on the other hand, is entirely focused on large-scale investments that will give it strategic dominance over its economy.
  • Joint Initiatives – The Asia Africa Growth Corridor is a trilateral project initiated by India, Japan, and a number of African countries (AAGC).
    • This aims to create “industrial corridors” and “institutional networks” for Asia and Africa’s growth, as well as to encourage development cooperation.
    • In contrast to China’s BRI, which is designed more as a top-down, unilateral strategy to safeguard and improve China’s economic and geopolitical interests, the AAGC is a consultation effort amongst three equal partners (India, Japan, and Africa)..
    • East Africa and the Indian Ocean Region are important target regions in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

What more opportunities India can explore in Africa in future?

  • Improve trade relations: Despite the fact that China has a larger presence in the African economy than India, there are increasing opportunities for India to improve trade relations with Africa, such as initiatives like the Asia-Africa growth corridor proposed by both India and Japan for improving development and people-to-people cooperation.
  • India’s marine trade connections: In the Indian Ocean area, Africa is critical for India’s economic and marine interests. The Prime Minister’s emphasis on the “blue economy project,” which intends to improve India’s marine trade connections with countries bordering the Indian Ocean, is noteworthy.
  • Automotive business: Rapid urbanization, a growing customer base with increased disposable income, and a large regional market are all driving growth in Africa’s automotive business.
  • It requires investments in infrastructure such as ports, roads, and railroads, as well as training programs to develop a competent workforce.
  • Connectivity: As a result, we should share our experience and human resources in the construction of roads, airports, ports, railroads, economic zones, and industrial corridors.
  • Technological investment: India must not underestimate the potential for Indian invention and technology to be commercialized in Africa.
    • For example, Africa’s agriculture industry offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity due to poor productivity, limited technological adoption, and a scarcity of high-yielding crop types and high-quality seeds.
    • This provides opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs in areas with significant social impact, such as agriculture, information and communication technology, pharmaceuticals, energy, and healthcare.


While China’s economic might and clout in Africa are unrivaled, India does not consider itself as a competitor. At the same time, Africa is becoming increasingly aware that Beijing’s terms of participation are less than ideal. As a result, India now has a window of opportunity to take on more African projects. Unlike China, India’s engagement with Africa is built on a paradigm of cooperation that is responsive, demand-driven, and condition-free, and one that liberates rather than constrains Africa’s potential.

Mains oriented question:

The goals of China’s contribution policy should be highlighted. How does India’s diplomacy with African countries vary from China’s? Comment. (250 words)