Conquering Africa! Destination next for Indian corporates

by Swaraj Singh Dhanjal on Tuesday 5 June 2012, 11:53 AM | Category: Strategy| View: 1576 views

Africa's perception has been changing rapidly, from being an unsafe investment destination to being a place hard to neglect. Businesses are no longer asking the question,”whether to invest in Africa?” they are now more worried about the risks of not investing in Africa. That South Africa is now a part of the BRICS group; the group of largest emerging market economies; is a sign of the growing significance of African countries. The continent of more than a billion people has steadily grown at a rate of 5.6% from 2001 to 2008. Africa has large number of Indian nationals and Indian companies are tapping this population to enter into this continent. For all aspiring Indian corporates all roads lead to Africa!

Bharti Airtel's Zain acquisition is probably the biggest by an Indian company in Africa; however, Bharti is not the only Indian company raring to go out on all cylinders firing in Africa. Many large Indian companies are betting big on Africa. Godrej acquired personal care product manufacturer Tura for $33 million and is eyeing a stake in hair care company ‘Darling Group Holdings'. FMCG companies like Dabur, Marico, Emami are all present in Africa and doing well. The Tata conglomerate has been present in Africa since decades. Essar, another big Indian corporate house has been aggressively investing in Africa since 2008. It started out with its own mobile company in 2008, but has since then acquired mobile companies in Uganda and Congo Republic. Essar Oil, an Essar group has acquired stakes in Kenya Petroleum Refineries and State owned Zimbabwe Iron and Steel.

Karuturi Global, has become one of the largest private land owners in the world thanks to its investments in Africa. It started with a 15 hectare land purchase in 2005; for an investment of $1.9 million, to grow rose. In 2007, it bought one of the largest flower farms in Africa for an amount of $65.5 million. In the last two years, it has acquired 311,700 hectares of land in Ethiopia for an undisclosed sum of money.

Drug companies Cipla and Ranbaxy have been present in Africa for a long time now, helping African nations in their fight against HIV-AIDS by providing cheap generic drugs. Ranbaxy, which is present in Africa since 1996, now has around 10 subsidiaries in Africa. It also has two manufacturing units in the continent. Cipla has recently set up a manufacturing facility in Africa.

One of the main reasons for acceptance of Indian companies is the reason that India has had a long political relation with African countries. However, in terms business it's the Chinese who are front runners. The Chinese have been investing heavily in the continent. The Indian government though late to act, recently has been sending many delegations to the continent to create business opportunities for Indian companies. One thing in India's favour is its democratic set-up; unlike China whose Communist nature makes it appear as a threat. All Indian investment in Africa is not about business, some of it is philanthropic in nature. In 2008, during a summit in Africa, India pledged more than $500 million for development projects. It also pledged to increase by $2 billion its lines of credit to African countries.

As Indian companies grow, they have to look beyond the boundaries of the country for new markets and Africa seems to be their number one choice for the time being. For corporate India, conquering Africa is a top priority.

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