An intriguing trade-and-aid relationship is building up between Kenya and India, one of the few such ties in existence between developing countries of the third world.
It looks as if the two countries have virtually given up hope of the "North-South dialogue" providing more favorable economic relations between the rich countries of the industrial world and the poor third-world countries.
Industrial India has made great technological strides in the past few years, and is looking for export opportunities for its goods its technology, and its experts in like-minded third- world nations. Kenya, now committed to an expensive technological revolution and therefore an increasing inflow of expatriate experts, is thought to be a perfect partner.
Kenya needs investments in appropriate industries, plus the know-how to set them up, and India is proving more than willing to cooperate.
Many are asking whether these moves are designed to lessen Kenya's dependence on Western investment, technology, and expatriates. One prominent Indian in Kenya may have put his finger on the main reasons for this new trend: "The indians are cheaper," he said.
But the situation now developing is slightly ironic, because for years the Asian was the least favored community in East Africa, especially in Kenya.
But things apparently are changing in the wake of the recent successful visit to India by Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi. He brought back some important agreements for the wide-ranging key industries in Kenya, under joint-arrangements with India.
These include machine-tool manufacture, pesticide production, drugs, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics, and rubber reclamation, all of which would lessen Kenya's dependence on expensive imports that eat up its foreign exchange.
A trade agreement between the two nations provides for most-favored-nation treatment for Kenya, for the encouragement of direct trade at greater volume.
Other arrangements are likely to bring a flood of Indian expatriates into Kenya: engineers, chemists, agro-industry experts, and teachers. Such experts now are provided mainly by Britain, the United States, West Germany, and Scandinavia.
"We are willing and ready to share with you our experience of the development progress," said Indian President Sanjiva Reddy when he met President Moi on his arrival in India.
For some time criticism has been heard in black Africa that technological know-how from the industrial countries of the West is not always relevant to Africa's needs and circumstances. The same technology went to India, of course, but India is credited with having adapted and trimmed it for the needs of a third-world developing country.
India, with its vast population of 650 million, has tailored its own economy to produce goods suitable to the needs of the people and then make them acceptable for the export market as well. India also has improved its food production, becoming self-sufficient in 1976. Kenya is falling behind in this category, largely because of drought, which is why Kenya needs technical help in expanding water resources and irrigation.
But the Indian drive into Kenya started some time ago with heavy involvement in papermaking (Kenya is now self- sufficient), textiles, and chemicals.
These new deals with India have been a blessing for the Indians permanently resident in Kenya. Not only were they unpopular with the blacks but many were being moved out of their shops and businesses to make way for blacks. There are about 100,000 Kenyan Asian (mainly indian) citizens, who form a rich and elite society.
But the pressures on Indians have been relaxed in the last year and even the movement to Britain of Indians holding British passports has slowed down. Many find Kenya a better place, especially now that India appears to have become a favored ally.