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NTPC using Solar expertise in Africa

India is leveraging its solar power expertise as it ventures into African nations under the aegis of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), two people aware of the matter said.

As part of this strategy, state-run power generator NTPC Ltd plans to help Gambia and Malawi develop solar power parks and is eyeing project management consultancy contracts in Sudan, Mozambique, Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda and Niger. India’s largest power generation utility recently got such contracts in Mali and Togo.

India is showcasing its record low tariffs and project execution skills to secure these projects even as China aims to co-opt countries into its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative.

“NTPC has identified 10 ISA member countries as leaders who may be willing to put up solar parks in the near future and would like to avail the services of NTPC in assisting them as a turnkey consultant. ISA has empanelled NTPC and will soon be doing another exercise to empanel more public sector units from member countries who have rich experience in solar space,” said an ISA spokesperson.

New Delhi’s Africa playbook involves helping state-run firms such as NTPC win these contracts with the backing of ISA, the first treaty-based international government organization headquartered in India that is increasingly being viewed as a foreign policy tool. Indian strategic planners believe that the covid-19 pandemic has given the country the opportunity to be seen as a developing nation with a proven ability to take the lead in evolving regional and global strategies.

India believes in a “softer and collaborative diplomacy” in which there is a “sense of partnership”, Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar had said earlier.

“NTPC is also helping set up solar parks totalling 718 megawatts in Mali and Togo. The preparatory work is on and the foundation stones are expected be laid in September,” said one of the two people mentioned above, both of whom requested anonymity.

With an installed capacity of 62 gigawatts, NTPC is targeting similar contracts to help set up 10 GW capacity in ISA member countries. It accounts for nearly a fifth of India’s installed power generation capacity of 370 GW.

Queries mailed to the spokespersons for the ministry of new and renewable energy and NTPC on Tuesday remained unanswered.

India’s strategy is to counter the growing influence of strategic rival China in the region. New Delhi has also extended a $10-billion concessional line of credit (LOC) for the African continent. It is also exploring the supply of small nuclear power reactors to electricity-starved countries, Mint reported earlier.

China has made major forays into Africa since 2004-05. New Delhi is opposed to the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa, as it says the initiative lures countries into debt traps, and does not respect sovereignty or address environmental concerns.

New Delhi’s support to the freedom movements in many African countries had earned it considerable political clout in the region, but this goodwill began waning after the 1990s. However, since the middle of the last decade, India has made efforts to remedy that, reworking its ties with Africa through high-level summits and frequent top-level visits.

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