New Delhi - Chinese eco-friendly electric buses are rolling out in the Moroccan city of Marrakech in yet another example of growing Chinese footprint in the North African nation. The buses were supposed to roll out in November last year when Marrakech hosted the 22nd edition of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, technical issues didn’t allow that to happen. Subsequent months saw trials and driver training that ensured the buses were finally ready to hit the road.
New Delhi – Chinese eco-friendly electric buses are rolling out in the Moroccan city of Marrakech in yet another example of growing Chinese footprint in the North African nation. The buses were supposed to roll out in November last year when Marrakech hosted the 22nd edition of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, technical issues didn’t allow that to happen. Subsequent months saw trials and driver training that ensured the buses were finally ready to hit the road.
China’s growing investments in Morocco are wide-ranging – from building smart cities to establishing collaborative ventures in automotive manufacturing, aerospace, electronic information, textiles, etc. In contrast, India’s economic engagement with Morocco continues to be dominated by the trade in phosphates. This needs to change if India is to fully realise the potential of its relationship with Morocco. The latter sits on the crossroads of two continents with Europe just 15km away. Plus, Morocco can be India’s gateway to Francophone Africa where New Delhi’s reach has been traditionally weaker. And with Morocco returning to the African Union earlier this year, it can be the perfect partner for India in advancing its African interests.
Yet, India’s engagement with Morocco lags far behind that of China’s. This is explained by the difference in resources and skill sets that New Delhi and Beijing possess. India really isn’t known for building overseas infrastructure. But it can turn this around by teaming up with Japan. In fact, New Delhi and Tokyo are exploring modalities of cooperation for infrastructure and human development projects in Africa as part of a proposed Asia Africa Growth Corridor.
During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India last month, the two premiers “welcomed the efforts to explore the development of industrial corridors and industrial network for the growth of Asia and Africa, which will benefit various stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific region including Africa. They shared the desire to further promote cooperation and collaboration in Africa in line with the priority measures identified through the India-Japan dialogue on Africa and the processes of the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) and Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD)”.
In other words, India and Japan are ready to team up for African development projects that are collaborative in design, sensitive to local needs, locally owned, responsibly financed and bottom-up in approach. Japan certainly has the technology and the skills to build quality physical infrastructure. While India has a proven track record in fostering soft skills and developing human resource through training and education. Together, India and Japan can be the perfect combination for Africa.
And in this respect, Morocco should become the first port of call for the Asia Africa Growth Corridor. The Kingdom’s stable security environment and sure-footed economy make it ideal to receive joint Indian-Japanese investments. Indian and Japanese joint-ventures can then use Morocco as a launchpad for forays into other African markets and Europe. In conclusion, teaming up with Japan provides India with greater strength to fructify its African interests. And Morocco with its stable economic and security profile can be the keystone of the India-Japan partnership for Africa.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.