India stepped up its push to deepen its economic ties with Africa and emerge from the shadow of rival China by offering US$5 billion to help the continent rich with minerals and commodities.
At an address to an India-Africa summit in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh trumpeted his country's historical ties with Africa in his attempt to catch up with Beijing's growing influence on the continent.
Rival emerging economies India and China are scouring the globe to secure energy resources, minerals and food. Both are keen to stress to African nations that they are more than just trade partners and want to help the continent develop.
"There is a new economic growth story emerging from Africa. Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world," Singh told a gathering of African Union leaders in a speech in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.
"The India-Africa partnership is unique and owes its origins to history and our common struggle against colonialism, apartheid, poverty, disease, illiteracy and hunger."
Singh, who is on a six-day trip to Africa that began on Monday, is pledging development support in exchange for trade agreements to fuel growth in India's resource-intensive economy, and boost the presence of Asia's third-largest economy which lags China in the world's poorest continent.
"We will offer $5 billion dollars for the next three years under lines of credit to help Africa achieve its development goals," Singh said.
In January 2010, India said it would increase credit lines to Africa to $5.4bn until 2012 from $2.15bn.
At the gathering, Singh said his country would boost support for infrastructure projects, regional integration, skills training and human resource development.
Singh said India would offer an additional $700m for new institutions and training programmes and a further $300m for a new Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line.
Delhi, whose merchant ships have been ravaged by Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean, also offered $2m to the African Union's mission in the lawless Horn of Africa nation, where they are fighting Islamist insurgents battling to overthrow an internationally recognised government.
Chinese companies are busy building roads across the continent, investing in the energy sector and are active in areas such as telecoms technology.
Both nations are also trying to extend their influence in Africa as they emerge as economic powers and appear keener to flex their diplomatic muscle.
India is trying to increase its presence on the continent as well as get African support for its bid for a permanent place on the UN Security Council, as the body is reformed to include emerging powers and developing nations.
Total bilateral trade between India and African countries stood at $46 billion last year, a huge increase on $3bn in 2000-1. Volumes are estimated to reach $70bn by 2015, India's Trade Minister Anand Sharma said on Saturday.
China's bilateral trade with Africa already stood at $107bn back in 2008.
India's state-run oil firms are beginning to invest in countries including Nigeria and Kenya, while China has pumped billions of dollars into Sudanese oil, mineral-rich Zimbabwe, and Zambia's mining sector, among other countries.
Singh will travel on Thursday to Tanzania, where Delhi has also invested heavily during the past few years.
Singh appealed to the African leaders, saying India will work with Africa to realise the continent's potential. The first India-Africa summit was held in Dehli in 2008.
"It is the first time that the leaders of India and Africa are meeting on such a scale on African soil," he said.
We believe that a new vision is required for Africa's development and participation in global affairs. We do not have all the answers, but we have some experience in nation building which we are happy to share with our African brothers ..."