India in Senegal

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An incredible amount is being written about the emerging role of China in Africa.  Partly as a result, there has been a tendency to overlook the growing importance of other ‘non Western’ international actors such as Brazil, Iran, Saudi Arabia, on the continent.  In this article, Pooja Jain, a researcher at Sciences Po in Paris, provides an overview of the strengthening relationship between India and Senegal.

Never Mind the Dragon

China may be one of the most important actors in a number of African countries, but in Senegal Indian companies are also becomming increasingly prominent.  India has long held cordial relations with Senegal. President Leopold Senghor Segar visited India twice in 1974 and 1984. More recently the current president Abdoulaye Wade visited Indian in 2003 and 2008 during the first Africa India Forum Summit.  Politically stable and financially credible, Dakar has become the gateway for Indian ventures in francophone West Africa. The Export-Import Bank of India opened it regional office in Dakar in 2008. It’s first ever office was created in South Africa in 1998 and the most recent in Ethiopia in 2010. The concessional loans or lines of credit extended by the Bank are an important policy tool of the Indian development initiative in Africa. In 2009, out of 99 credit lines, 66 were allocated to Africa under the IDEA scheme (India Development and Economic Assistance).


The lines of credit currently operational in Senegal are extended for a period of 20 years at an interest rate of 1.75%.  They are allocated to the Ministry of Finance which is free to allocate and manage the credit on the condition that the company executing the project be Indian. In certain cases the lines are allocated to the regional banks like the West African Bank for Development, the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and the BCEAO (Central Bank of West African States). Currently, there are eight lines allocated to Senegal in sectors ranging from urban transport to agriculture and rural electrification. The lines are allocated under the TEAM 9 (Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Movement) programme created in 2004, having India and 8 West African countries for members.Two of the leading Indian contributions to development projects in Senegal – the urban transport project in Dakar and the self-sufficiency in rice production project have been funded by the EXIM Bank lines of credit and have been executed by Indian private companies Tata and Kirloskar.

The two companies are known names in their sectors of activity. Tata Group is one of the world’s most reputed business groups, while Kirloskar is the leading manufacturer of motor pump sets in India. Tata ventured in Senegal with the supply of 350 buses to the government of Senegal in 2004 funded by an EXIM Bank line of credit worth 17.7 MUSD.  In 2007 Tata won another World Bank contract for the supply of another 505 buses replacing the older ones on the road. Expanding its activities in Senegal, Tata carried similar projects of urban transport in other West African countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Congo. Kirloskar first ventured into the Senegalese market through the self-sufficiency in rice production programme of the government of Senegal. The current President of Senegal was briefed of Kirloskar’s activities during the CII India Africa Project Partnership conclave held in 2005 in New Delhi.  The latest and the 8th in the series of meetings is scheduled to be held in New Delhi in March 2012. So far, Kirloskar has supplied 2,394 pump sets to Senegal under the phase 1 of the project and is currently working with the Hyrdaulic Ministry as well for a rural drinking water project.

Joint ventures

The activities of the two companies have been facilitated by joint ventures with local private companies. Tata has been in joint venture with Senbus and Kirloskar has been in partnership with TSE (Tracto Service Equipment). The two private Senegalese companies have joint ventures with Chinese and French companies as well. Tata and Kirloskar have complemented the supply of equipment with the training of local employees and after sales services. The two projects being based on the “build and transfer” model, local employees were trained for operations, maintenance and repair services. This stands in stark contrast to the Chinese model of using imported labor.

Cultural relations

The Indian community in Senegal varies from around 300 to 400 people with part of the diaspora “floating”. They are mostly employees of Indian companies based in Dakar who are business travelers. A part of the Indian diaspora, though, dates from the 1950s and 60s. Locally known as the “indo-pakistanis”, they are sindhis who hail from the Sindh region (bordering the Indian state of Rajsthan to the east) currently in Pakistan. An enterprising community, the sindhis emigrated to African countries during India’s independence struggle. They mostly hold retails stores. Interestingly, in contrast to the stories of anti-Asian and Chinese sentiment in many African countries, Indian culture appears to be very popular in Senegal. Translated versions of Indian soaps are telecast primetime on local channels. Private companies have put this popularity to use as they seek to strengthen their image: Tata for example has sponsored Indian film festivals in the country.


For more of Pooja’s work, click here

For more on India in Africa, see:

Harris, Dave and Vittorini, Simona (2011) ‘India Goes Over to the Other Side: Indo-West African Relations in the 21st Century.’ In: Emma , Mawdsley and Gerard, McCann, (eds.), India in Africa: changing geographies in power. Oxdord: Fahamu Books.

Vittorini, Simona and Harris, David (2011) ‘African governmental responses to Indian ventures on the continent: a changing arena of African politics?’ In: New Topographies of Power? Africa Negotiating an Emerging Multi-polar World.Leiden: Brill.

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