By Sajjad Shaukat

Jacob Zuma in New Dehli

Neo-imperialism is the most dangerous form of imperialism, which is prevalent in the present world. In the past, the most developed countries had direct control on the less developed countries, but most of the colonies got independence after the World War 11. As regards neo-imperialism, in theory a less developed or developing country is free, but in practice, its government and economy are controlled by a developed country indirectly.

In these terms, by imitating the other western powers, India has been practising neo-imperialism in Africa.

Today, Africa is the hub of natural resources with leading world powers, having eye the continent. Only an average 3% of cultivatable land in Africa is being used now, which is not sufficient to feed the entire population of Africa.

The trade and investment in agriculture and agro-infrastructure are inter-linked and need foreign support. In this respect, India persuaded Africa to share Indian experience in this sector. Indian scientific and agricultural research institutions have assisted around 5,000 entrepreneurs for developing their business ideas in the African countries. Today, India’s foreign policy is being questioned as India is being accused of neo-imperialism in Africa, using its agriculture land to cater to the Indian population at home.

The academic circles in Africa worry about India’s role as a neo colonial power. Dean Nelson observed that Karuturi Global (KGL), an Indian company, one of the world’s largest producers of cut roses, has been accused of neo-colonialism in Ethiopia and Kenya.

It is observed that India focuses on bilateral, multilateral and regional economic cooperation acting as bridging power with all the major powers as a part of its foreign economic policy. But being seen as the bridging power, it misuses multinational corporations, using Africa for its self interests.

New Delhi knows that science and technology (S&T) can ensure a long term benefit that is adaptable for the local requirements—shows genuine concerns for local users and investors as through this way, India wants to strengthen its grip on the poor African countries. Indian experts are convincing the people of African countries that India’s transfer of knowledge and technology could help African people to deal with the problem of food crisis. For this purpose, Indian investors provide agricultural mechanisation such as seed-cum-fertilizer drills, and enhancement in cropping intensity and increase in gross income.

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However, in this context, the focus of India’s neo-imperialism are Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana etc., but South Africa has become special target of Indian neo-colonialism. Nevertheless, these African countries account for around 69 % of India’s total bilateral trade. New Partnership for Africa’s Development shares the developmental approach with New Delhi and Indian institutional partners. India’s economic engagement in Africa is working as per their local needs. Different turnkey contracts have been undertaken in Tanzania, Uganda and other African countries. It enables imports of Indian equipment and technology on deferred credit terms extended through various banks. Indian companies are engaged in Africa through Line of Credit LOC. Besides, India adopted multiple approaches in Africa to promote infrastructure and agro industry.

Unlike the other African states, Indian practice of neo-imperialism in South Africa is of special consideration.

By adopting various tactics of neo-colonialism, New Delhi has been gradually increasing its influence in South Africa. The high profile of the Indians in the African National Congress (ANC) hierarchy was very beneficial. When Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa, he included six Indians in his cabinet of sixteen members. The Indians, making up three percent of the population, were over-represented at executive level. They also had a proportionally larger number of members of Parliament. Many South Africans objected in relation to the over-representation of the Indians.

The ANC Government systematically began to abolish all previous discriminatory legislation. All the previously disadvantaged groups benefited. The Indians prospered the most because of the advantages of greater wealth and influence. In particular, the Indian business community prospered in the post-apartheid South Africa. They were now able to enter many sectors of commerce and industry that were previously not open to them. Especially, wealthy Indians could now move into residential areas that were previously restricted to Whites.

Since South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, Nelson Mandela has endeavoured to make the country’s minority communities feel more secure. Despite government assurances, the Indian community pretended that they were being marginalised. Mandela was surprised at the level of insecurity, expressed by the Indian youth. As a matter of fact, India wanted to increase its hold on South Africa overtly or covertly.


A major dimension of the post-apartheid South Africa is that although Blacks are in majority and have their own government, yet Whites have dominant influence in the politics and economics of the country as they have hold on the resources—and are  wealthier than Blacks. Besides, they have still sympathies of the American and European people who support them through business transactions. As we can particularly note in case of the United States that the Jews are in minority, but have a greater influence in the politics of that country because they dominate the economics of the US. India and Israel fulfill their interests with the help of strong Hindu-Jewish lobbies, working in America. Same is true in case of South Africa. Apparently, Indians favour the Black, but covertly they support the White with whom they are doing business. Besides, Indian lobbies have been influencing the government in order to get more political and economic benefits. In this context, India is also availing the opportunity by manipulating the phenomenon of South Africa clandestinely as prejudice is still found between Blacks and Whites.

It is notable that the high rate of unemployment among Blacks and the low economic growth has contributed to the high crime rate prevailing in South Africa. This high crime rate has prevented many overseas companies from making meaningful investments in South Africa. This vacuum is being fulfilled by New Delhi. In this connection, India–South Africa business relations have witnessed tremendous growth since the resumption of trade and diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1993. The end of apartheid in South Africa and India’s growing integration with the world economy after it embraced globalisation have played a crucial rule in strengthening the economic relations between the two countries.

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In recent years, several Indian companies have forayed into South Africa. The Tata Steel, Tata Motors and TCS have made considerable investments in the country. Similarly, Mahindra & Mahindra, Cipla, Ranbaxy, Ashok Leyland, Apollo Tyres are some of the other Indian business houses to have established a presence in South Africa. In addition, banks like the SBI and ICICI are busy in establishing their branches in the country, partly with a view to taping into the million-strong People of Indian Origin (PIOs) there. VSNL is in the process of investing US$ 200 million in the telecom sector in South Africa. In all, some 35 Indian corporations have established their presence in the country, and more are likely to join the race soon. Over the ongoing year, investment from India Inc. is expected to reach the US $ 500 millions in South African economy.

A number of bilateral agreements have been concluded between India and South Africa in diverse areas ranging from economic and commercial cooperation, defence, culture, heath, human settlements, public administration science and technology and education.

The real tragedy of the post-apartheid South Africa is that its people are not aware of Indian sinister designs against Blacks. In this context, India is not only playing double game with the South African people by exploiting their division, but is also trying to get grip on the resources of the country. Everyone knows that South Africa is replete with the precious minerals such as gold, diamond and uranium. Therefore, India is increasing its influence in South Africa with a view to making it target of Indian neo-imperialism.

Nonetheless, a major challenge, facing the African countries is the perceived disloyalty of New Delhi towards the African communities. On the economic front, many Indian businessmen are taking on Black partners to improve their image with Black consumers and the government but in fact, under this cover, India is practising neo-imperialism in Africa.

Sajjad Shaukat writes regularly for Opinion Maker, he writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations