In addition to funding the development of various ICT projects in Southern Africa, India has also started pumping money into electricity generation projects to boost the region's power supply.
Due to lack of investment in renewable energy and electricity generation, several Southern African countries including Zambia, Namibia and Malawi are faced with increased power shortages affecting ICT equipment, particularly in rural areas.
To ensure the region has enough electricity, Indian Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari has signed agreements with Southern African countries including Zambia and Malawi for electric power generation and renewable energy projects.
Ansari's tour of Southern African countries last week came in the wake of India's sponsorship of a pan-African e-network project. The project aims to connect all African countries to satellite and fiber-optic networks and to provide telemedicine, tele-education and video conferencing services for all heads of state in Africa as well as for students and doctors.
Indian companies are also providing computer training programs to Botswana and South Africa. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) plans to equip schools in Africa to promote e-learning projects, but power problems stand in the way.
Many African governments have been facing a challenge raising funds to buy generators to power ICT equipment. However, Indian companies are moving in to help the situation through investments in ICT and electricity generation projects.
"The Zambian government is providing a conducive environment for Indian companies' investments," said Zambian Vice President George Kunda.
In August last year, Zambia joined more than 30 countries in Africa that will benefit from the pan-African e-network plan. The project, which was first launched in South Africa, Mauritius, Ethiopia and Ghana, will cost the Indian government more than US$125 million, although the project will likely demand $1 billion in total.
After five years, the Indian government will withdraw from the project to allow African countries to run it on their own, using their own financial and human resources.
Ansari's visit to Zambia saw the Indian government giving Zambia a $50 million loan facility to develop the 120-megawatt Itezhi Tezhi hydro power station, aimed at increasing the country's power generation capacity to power ICT projects, among others. The Itezhi Tezhi hydro power project is a joint venture between Zambia's state-owned power utility company, Zesco, and Tata Africa Holdings, an Indian company involved in ICT and electric power generation in Africa.
In Southern Africa, Tata Communications already owns a 56 percent stake in South Africa's second national operator, Neotel, and there are plans by the company to expand its communication services in many countries in Africa, especially those countries that are getting financial support from India.
"The future growth areas that Tata Africa is looking at are information technology and electricity generation," said Raman Dhawan, managing director at Tata Africa Holdings.
Considering China is making great inroads into the African ICT market through ZTE and Huawei, Dhawan noted that a possible way for India to increase its presence in Africa was for public and private companies to join hands.
To showcase its muscle and financial ability to further expand in the African telecom market, Tata has also set up a point of presence (POP) in Nairobi, Kenya, to route traffic to other African countries without passing through London.