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India moves to wrestle African telecom market from China

A contract with Zimbabwe follows on heels of an Indian delegation tour through the continent

The battle for the control of Africa's telecom market is heating up, with India attempting to wrestle the market from China through bigger investments in the region's ICT sector.

Last week, the Indian government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Zimbabwe on computer aided education for youths dubbed "the Hole in the Wall Project."  The Indian government will additionally help Zimbabwe with the establishment of three learning institutions in to mark the pilot phase of the project.

At the same time, a delegation from India is touring Africa to explore investment opportunities in the ICT sector.

In addition to investment in the African telecom market by India's Tata Communications, the Indian government has also heavily invested in the pan-African e-Network project, expected to cost more than US$1billion and help India increase its sale of telecom gear to Africa.

Tata has a presence in South Africa where the company owns 56 percent stake in South Africa's fixed line operator Neotel. It also plans more investments in East and West Africa. Tata also has also set up a point of presence (POP) in Nairobi, to traffic to other African countries without looping through London.

India's investment in Africa's telecom sector has mainly been concentrated in Southern and East Africa, but now the country is casting its net wider to include the West African region.

As in Botswana, the Indian government will provide training in computer programs in Zimbabwe and help the country build a knowledge based economy.

India is also helping the Zimbabwean government with equipment and financial resources for an e-governance project in a bid to improve the country's public service provision in the area of education.

"The battle of supremacy by these Asian countries is growing by the day and as they battle to outdo each other, we expect improved telecom services and infrastructure around Africa," said Edith Mwale, a telecom analyst from Africa Center for ICT Development.

However, China still remains a single largest telecom investor in Africa, providing easy-to-assess loans whose conditions call for supply and installation contracts to be given to Chinese telecom companies.

The battle for the control of African telecom market is expected to continue, as more countries on the continent work at developing and modernizing their communication sector.

With the support of the Indian government, Indian telecom companies including Bharti Airtel, Essar Group and Tata Communications are also steadily expanding telecom services in Africa.


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