Between post-colonial solidarity for sustainable energy transitions and neo-colonial extraction: Investigating India’s role in East African energy landscape

This interdisciplinary project will investigate India’s growing role in the East African (Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya) energy sector.  

The last decade has seen an increasing attention on South-South co-operation in infrastructure development, especially on the growing role of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in Africa.  

India and China are positioning themselves as leaders that can share knowledge, finance and technology with other global South countries to help their energy transitions. This activity is built on a history of cultural exchange and ideas of South-South and post-colonial solidarity, in addition to the argument that India and China have tackled the kind of infrastructure gaps that currently exist in Sub-Saharan African countries.  

As India and China grow their respective economic and political footprints, they also look towards raw materials, markets and geopolitical interests beyond their shores.  

Questions related to China’s role in extraction, land acquisition, debt-trap and neo-colonialism have received much scholarly attention over the last 5-8 years. Less attention has been given to India’s growing role in Africa, where the historical presence of an Indian diaspora and its complicated colonial linkages give India a different entry point than China.  

The researchers will examine the following questions  

  1. How do critical historical perspectives on the relationship between India and East Africa shape our contemporary understanding of the drivers and implications of India’s engagement in African energy transitions, extractive economies and local energy markets? 
  1. What are the implications of this interdisciplinary dialogue for our understanding of energy transitions in the context of climate crisis and global pandemic in East Africa and beyond? 

Additionally, the researchers have secured match funding, from the India-UK Development Partnership Forum (IUKDPF). Housed at the Margaret Anstee Centre (MAC), University of Cambridge, and funded by UK’s DFID, the IUKDPF supports research, knowledge exchange and development of partnerships between India and the UK. IUKDPF academics will participate in all proposed activities and will facilitate additional links with Indian academics and institutions operating in East Africa.  

Lead academic at lead institution:  
Dr Ankit Kumar – Department of Geography, University of Sheffield 

Lead academics at other institutions:  
Dr Joshua Kirshner – Department of Environment and Geography, University of York 
Dr James Van Alstine – School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds 

Other academics at other institutions:  
Dr Enora Robin – Urban Institute, University of Sheffield 
Dr Gerard McCann – Department of History, University of York 
Dr Lata Narayanaswamy – School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds 

Other partners: 
Dr Emma Mawdsley – Margaret Anstee Centre, Newnham College, University of Cambridge 
Dr Jonathan Balls – The India-UK Development Partnership Forum, Margaret Anstee Centre, Newnham College, University of Cambridge 

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