New Internationalist

India in Africa

Issue 083

Of all the acronyms minted in the 1970s TCDC (Technical Cooperation between Developing Countries) was perhaps the least catchy. Based on the idea that technology developed in one poor country is likely to be more appropriate to other poor countries than is technology imported from the West, the concept of TCDC has attracted many admirers. "An idea with a political and intellectual dimension of world-changing force" prophecied former US Congressman Bradford Morse.

But the greatest admirers of the concept are the more industrially advanced developing countries, the Mexicos and the South Koreas.

Guess which country, for example, is-currently building two airports in Libya; helping Algeria to install a railway network; consulting on a new steel township at Warri in Nigeria; exploring for oil in Tanzania, extending a chain of hotels in Egypt; putting up a $14 million textile mill in Tripoli; building three cement plants in Syria; advising the steel industry of Colombia and sending hundreds of engineers, accountants, architects and agriculturalists every year to the continent of Africa?

Japan, West Germany, the United States? None of these. The answer is a little-known industrial power called India. What is more, Indian companies are lifting these contracts from under the noses of the industrialised powers who have long held a monopoly in selling technology and expertise to the Thud World. Bidders from France and Hungary, for example, were more than a little surprised when the contracts for the management of Nigeria’s expanding railway system was recently awarded to Rail-India.

While to the industrialised world India is just another developing country, the Third World is recognising that India is the world’s ninth largest industrial power and third largest in qualified technological manpower. Although the sub-continent’s agriculture, on which 80 per cent of its people depend for their livelihoods, has stagnated in comparative neglect, its industry has made impressive strides - tripling its output in less than twenty years, boosting its electric power capacity twenty-fold since independence, and sealing over 2,000 new technological patents a year.

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