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India has stepped up its efforts to gain an economic foothold in Africa in a new scramble with China for the continent's resources, signing energy deals with top oil producers Angola and Nigeria.
India has lagged behind China's aggressive courting of African nations to secure rights to energy as well as raw materials.
Beijing is using its deep pockets to build roads, railways, even a new parliament building in Malawi, to win favour across Africa, deploying at least half a million Chinese workers to labour on projects around the continent.
India's democratic system and often lumbering bureaucracy have left it slower to make inroads and less likely to fund big projects, since government must account for all spending to parliament. But this month India deployed two high-level missions to the continent, with Oil Minister Murli Deora last week leading a delegation of top energy executives through Sudan, Nigeria, Angola and Uganda.
India's state Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) left with deals for $359 million (Dh1.3 billion) worth of investments in Nigeria and an agreement for joint exploration and refining projects with Angola, seen as a precursor to a broader future deal.
Trade between the two nations is expected to exceed $2bn this year, up from $1.3bn in 2007/2008 and from $300m the year before, mostly in oil exports to India.
Trade with China last year totalled more than $25bn, however, as Angola became the country's fifth-largest supplier of oil.
China has granted Angola an estimated $10bn in loans, compared to around $70m in Indian loans, mainly for rebuilding a railway in southern provinces.
In practical terms as well, China has a larger physical presence in Angola, with more than 40,000 workers, compared to 1,500 Indians.
Deora also tried to patch up a dispute over payments on oil deals in Sudan, while discussing major new oil finds in Uganda.
Nigeria is already India's largest African trading partner, at about $10bn annually, and Deora said in Lagos that his country wants to see that figure grow.
India's flagship gas company Gail has expressed an interest in liquefied natural gas projects in Angola and Nigeria, Africa's two top oil producers.
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