Africa looks to India for IT success

By Manish Chand, IANS,

Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) : In Tanzania, where China is building mammoth infrastructure projects, India is scoring big with its prowess in IT as east Africa’s vibrant economy looks to New Delhi for training and capacity building that transforms the lives of ordinary people.

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“Tanzania should emulate the success of India in the IT sector. IT has a huge potential in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” John W.A. Kondoro, principal of the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology that houses the India-Tanzania Centre of Excellence in Information and Communication Technology, told IANS in the commercial capital of Tanzania. The east African country boasts of high economic growth and has a population of around 42 million people.

India has a big role to play in creating new IT applications to benefit the African people, Kondoro said in his office located on the first floor of the institute where over 200 Tanzanian students have done India-aided computer courses that last from three to six weeks.

Taking IT to rural areas and to farmers that will enable farmers to keep themselves updated with latest information related to the pricing of their agricultural produce is one area that will make a huge difference in transforming the rural landscape.

India can help us in taking IT to farmers, he stressed.

Weather forecasting is another important area where an IT-savvy India can play a critical role. That’s because the economy of this country continues to be heavily dependent on agriculture. India has given Tanzania $40 million line of credit for financing and upgrading its agriculture-related infrastructure.

Much more could be done, said Kondoro while unveiling plans to establish 10 community information centres.

India had given a supercomputer to Tanzania, home to around 40,000 persons of Indian origin, last year that is now used for cutting-edge high-end research and training. The IT centre was set up by Indian software engineers at a cost of a little over $2 million in August last year.

The IT centre is also used by Tanzanians for tele-medicine and providing long-distance medical consultancy from top Indian specialists sitting thousands of kilometres away.

India has set up a similar IT centre in Ghana. The Indian IT industry’s famous brands like Satyam, Infosys and APTEC have set up shop in various African countries.

The IT centre underscores a key facet of India’s Africa policy which revolves around capacity building, education, training and value addition that has earned it huge social capital in terms of goodwill from ordinary Africans.

This low-key but empowerment-driven approach contrasts sharply with the high visibility infrastructure-building binge that is often associated with Beijing’s accelerated foray into the African continent.

“Their (China’s) presence in Africa is more conspicuous as they are involved in big projects. India, on the other hand, is mostly involved in capacity building projects,” said Mkumbwa Ally, managing editor of Tanzania Standard Newspaper, the government-supported media group that boasts of publishing the country’s oldest newspaper Daily Mail.

Last year China gave Tanzania $180 million in concessional loans for a host of infrastructure projects. China is building a swanky new terminal of Julius Nyerere International Airport that promises to be east Africa’s largest airport.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at [email protected])