Millennium Post

Unheralded, Indians in Africa make good money

As individuals or corporations, Indians rake in the moolah, contribute to the local economies and national progress. All these achievements hardly ever make news in India.

The big investors from India are doing very well indeed, thank you. Competing against global MNCs, the Indian investors have established themselves in traditional industries, agriculture and new ones like IT. Once in a while, the Indian media carries news about Airtel or Tata on their expansion drives or forays into new avenues/countries. The profits they rake in are kept under wraps. One gets a peek at the Indian settlement and contribution in a new book, ‘Indians in Emerging Africa’ by K. Sital (published by 'The Indian' magazine in Hong Kong) who covers Indian involvement in nine African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda and Burundi. A successful businessman in Hong Kong, Sital has published and edited an NRI magazine for over 40 years.

Why only these African countries? Because Sital travelled to these countries where he has good contacts and met the leading Indian entrepreneurs and industrialists, and wrote their profiles with an overview of Indian contribution. This personal effort is commendable instead of researching in New Delhi or even worse, surfing the Internet. Indians are not settled in large numbers in all 52 African countries as some have a few hundred or even less. But in some countries like Zambia, they have a key presence.

However, the inclusion of Rwanda and Burundi is laudable because very little is known about Indian activities in these two small countries west of Uganda. Rwanda has flourished with over seven percent economic growth since 2004 and hailed as the fastest reformer of business regulations globally by the World Bank. The opportunities for profit could not be ignored. In May 2013, a delegation of Indian investors visited Kigali to explore the potential. A top Indian real estate developer has bagged a $135m township development project. The small 2,500 Indian community in Kigali is active in many industries, construction, education and IT.

Burundi is rich in high value minerals like nickel, cobalt, copper, gold and uranium. Burundi also needs assistance in farming. How can these opportunities be ignored? The local Indians, originally from Uganda, are doing what they can and prospering but major Indian investments could reap rich rewards. Both these countries have their embassies in New Delhi.

With a population of 1.3 million Indians, South Africa is the most well-known African nation in India. Since South Africa makes constant news with cricket, flying there to watch the big matches followed by safaris comes naturally. Plus, South Africa’s aggressive tourism promotion has made it a top safari destination for Indians, never mind that Kenya has far better and more extensive safari attractions. But Kenya does not have the huge funds for massive promotion in India to tap the outbound tourist market.


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