DAR ES SALAAM, May 27, 2011 (IPS) - The Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, concludes a three-day visit to Tanzania on May 28. Singh arrived in Dar es Salaam from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he took part in the Second India-Africa Forum Summit, which began on May 20.
The Tanzanian leg of his overseas trip has reinforced already close cooperation between the two countries, and comes at an opportune moment for the Tanzanian government in its search for foreign investment.
Tanzania and India have long historical links. The first bilateral cooperation agreements between the two countries date back to January 1966, just two years after the official birth of Tanzania from the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. (Zanzibar is an island off the coast in the Indian Ocean.)
The total value of trade between India and Africa stood at 31 billion dollars in 2009-2010; trade between Tanzania and India exceeded a billion dollars that same year. India is Tanzania's leading source of imports (900 million dollars in 2010) and the second largest investor, after Kenya, according to the economic desk at the Indian embassy in Tanzania.
India's involvement with Tanzania can be explained first of all by the large Indian Diaspora which in this East African country. The first Indians arrived here more than 90 years ago, shortly after the First World War, when the League of Nations designated the territory as a protectorate under British control. At independence in 1961, a large number of Indians remained in the country and today occupy an important place in the country's economy.
According to figures provided by the Indian embassy in Dar es Salaam, the economic capital, there are 40,000 Tanzanians of Indian origin, and an additional 8,000 expatriate Indians. The Indian community lives mostly in the country's major cities, where they are involved in commercial enterprises and industry.
At the first India-Africa summit held in New Delhi in 2008, India and Tanzania agreed on cooperation in two key areas, food security and health. In line with this, a first batch of 288 tractors arrived from India in October 2010, to help Tanzanian farmers achieve better yields.
"Four hundred others, of an eventual total of 1,700, will arrive soon," the Indian ambassador to Tanzania, Kocheril Bhagirath, told journalists this week, stressing that the country will continue to support Tanzanian agriculture.
For 45 years, Tanzania has benefitted from Indian expertise in numerous domains. "The partnership is very dynamic," says the Tanzania-India Friendship Association, headed by the former Tanzanian prime minister Salim Ahmed Salim. "India has helped us to realise some of the millennium development goals, particularly in the health sector."
A new hospital is to be constructed in Dar es Salaam in 2013, which will be co-managed by the Tanzanian government and a private Indian firm. It will offer specialist treatment that is not currently available in the country, with patients forced to seek treatment overseas.
In 2010, day-patient units for treating cardio-vascular complaints were established in two clinics in Dar. The city's Lions Club - financed by diasporic Africans - has also sent 2,000 Tanzanian children suffering from serious cardiac problems for treatment in India, according to the Indian embassy.
Even before that, in 1996, Tanzania's first private university, the International Medical and Technological University, opened in Dar es Salaam, a project supported by the Bangalore-based Vignan Educational Foundation.
Also expected to be raised during the Indian prime minister's visit is the struggle against terrorism and Somali piracy. Piracy has disrupted maritime trade in the Indian Ocean that both countries depend on and the possibility of cooperation between the naval forces of the two countries was to be discussed, according to reports.
By Arnaud Bébien