Staging a comeback, re-energising India’s Africa policy (The Hindu, GS-2, International relations)

Context:- The Government of India has designed a forward ­looking strategy to deepen relations with African countries. This policy has invested a political will in expanding the multi­faceted engagement. During these Hard times each corner of the world is experiencing a huge burnt of Virus on one hand and Africa, which is a natural resource rich country is burning in the virus because of lack of health facilities.

India and Africa relation so Far:-

  • India’s relations with Africa date back to ancient Indus valley civilization which had the relation with the Egyptian civilization and with Mesopotamian civilization.
  • ‘Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’ or Guidebook describe the presence of Indians in East Africa.
  • Africa was a prime target of India’s diplomatic initiatives to promote the non aligned movement. 
  • The geographical proximity associated with easy navigability in Indian Ocean resulted in a well-established trade network between India and the Swahili Coast.
  • More concrete relations between India and Africa began to emerge during the medieval era. This can be evident through the accounts of Venetian traveler Marco Polo.
  • South Africa became colonized  and M.K. Gandhi established Indian Natal Congress in 1894.
  • Political connection during the colonial era was linked through Gandhi who began to protest in South Africa around the issues of registration of certificates etc.
  • Learning by Gandhi during Africa helped in the movement’s achievements.
  • After India got independent we have raised a voice for African liberation taking their case to the international forums. 
  • India has raised the voice to end of racial struggle, Apartheid and decolonization.
  •  India was a forerunner and the leader with the experience as a champion of the interests of the developing countries from Africa, particularly through the Non Aligned Movement (NAM).
  • India’s policy of NAM provided the world with the third front in general and developing world in particular at the time of heightened cold war rivalry between US and USSR, where African nations acted as the strengthening factor.
  • A large chunk of Indian diaspora continues to live in African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, and Nigeria.
  • It is this sense of solidarity, mutual trust and confidence born in the difficult days of the Cold War which continues to drive India-Africa cooperation to this day.

India’s Developmental Efforts in Africa:-

  • Indian help in fighting Against Covid-19: India has shared Covid-19 management strategies through the e-ITEC initiative by providing Africans training, webinars exclusively aimed at training health-care professionals from Africa by Indian health experts.
  • Medical Supplies:-India is also sending consignments of essential medicinal supplies such as hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol to many African countries in addition to doctors and paramedics.
  • Increasing Political and Economic Engagement: In the last few years, Africa has been the focus of India’s development assistance and also diplomatic outreach, as evident in plans to open 18 new embassies.
    • Focusing on commercial issues as a priority by the Indian missions in the African countries.
    • Review of trade and related issues with the 24 African countries through institutional mechanisms such as the Joint Trade Committee.
    • Increased interaction among business houses and communities through joint business councils, joint business groups and CEO forums.
    • Additional lines of credit to African countries.
    • Fixing/upgrading the credit rating of African countries by the Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India.
    • Special project-oriented activities funded under the Market Access Initiative scheme.
    • Disseminating information about procurement of tenders and investment opportunities in African countries by the Indian missions among the Indian exporters/importers/investors through export-promotion councils. 
    • Follow-up by Indian missions to simplify the procedure for registration and certification in the importing country.
    • Finalizing memoranda of understanding between appropriate authorities on technical assistance and cooperation in several sectors.
    • India-Africa trade reached $62 billion in 2018 when compared to $39 billion during 2009-10.
  • Duty-free quota free access to African Countries:-India’s duty-free quota free tariff preference scheme for Least Developed Nation (LDCs) launched in 2008 has benefited 33 African states.
  • Grants in Aid:- Africa is the second-largest recipient of Indian overseas assistance with Lines of Credit (LOC) worth nearly $10 billion spread over 100 projects in 41 countries after South Asia .
  • Capacity Building via E-governance Initiative:– India is investing in the capacity building pf African people across all the sectors by providing more than $1 billion in technical assistance and training to personnel under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program.
  • Security Cooperation:-In many UN peacekeeping forces India has deployed approximately 6,000 Indian soldiers in conflict zones in Africa.
  • Cooperation on Multiple Fronts: Bilateral cooperation includes solar energy development through Cooperation in International Solar Alliance , information technology, cybersecurity, maritime security, disaster relief, counter-terrorism and military training.
  • Engagement of India with African countries:-Engagement of India with African countries has increased in the last two decades with a large number of public and private sector companies from India investing in Africa.
    • India’s engagement with African nations remains at three levels mainly in Bilateral, Regional and Multilateral relations.
    • Multilateral engagement was launched with the first India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in 2008.
  • Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC):- India is investing in capacity building providing more than $1 billion in technical assistance with training to professionals under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program.
  • African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF):- India has pledged $1 million towards ACBF’s sustainable development for removal of poverty alleviation, and capacity building initiative.
  • Pan-African E-Network:- India has invested $100 million in the Pan-African E-Network to bridge the digital divide in Africa, this will help African in leveraging its strengths in information technology.
  • Indian military academies offer training to military officers from a number of African states.
  • Asian Africa Growth Corridor:- India has also unveiled the Vision Document of the Asian Africa Growth Corridor which is jointly prepared by Indian and Japanese think tanks. This corridor will prosper Africa and there by countering Chines Belt Road Initiative.
    • The corridor will focus on Developing Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, skill enhancement, and People-to-People Partnership.

Opportunities In India-Africa Relations:-

  • Addressing Food security:-

    • Agriculture and food security can also be a game changer for deepening ties where India has the expertise.
    • Africa has a major chunk of the world’s arable land but the issue remains that it produces a very small percentage of the global agri-output.

  • Becoming Voice of Developing World:-

    • Just as India and Africa fought colonialism together in the past and in future India and Africa can collaborate on representative and democratic global order that has a voice for around one-third of humanity that lives in Africa and India.
  • Combating Neo-Colonialism:-
    • China’ Chequebook diplomacy where China is Extracting the African resources at the fullest and and donation diplomacy in Africa will remain a challenge for India and opportunity for African countries to move towards India.
    • Chinese investment is seen as neo-colonial in nature as it focuses on money, political influence, hard-infrastructure projects and resource extraction but on the other hand India provides for capacity Building.
  • Enabling Strategic Convergence:-
    •  Under the recent Quad Plus initiative whereby the countries (US, India, Japan and Australia have recently engaged other countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, New Zealand, Israel and Brazil) exchanged views and proposed cooperation with select African countries about the Indian Ocean.
  • Preventing Global Rivalries:-

    • Several global economic players have strengthened their engagement with African states for economic opportunities such as energy, mining, infrastructure and connectivity where India too collaborates with them.

India and Africa Relation during the pandemic:-

  • India’s exports to $27.7 billion goods and services with a reduction of 4.4% the previous year.
  • India imports from Africa  around $28.2 billion, a reduction 25% over the previous year.
  • India’s investments in Africa saw a a decline from $3.2 billion in 2019­20 to $2.9 billion in 2020­21
  • In the first two decades of the 21st century Africa experienced a sharpened international competition which is known as ‘the third scramble’.
  • A mix of competition and contestation involving traditional and new players, especially the United States, the European Union (EU), China, Japan and India

Way Forward:-

  • higher priority. Industry representatives should be consulted about their grievances and challenges in the COVID­19.
  •  increased cooperation between India and its international allies, rates priority
  • India-Africa forum summit on priority basis.
  • India has to engage with the other friendly countries in Africa in order take on China.

Extra For Prelims:-

India Africa Forum Summit:-

  • It is an official platform for the African-Indian relations.
  • It is held once every three years beginning from 2008.
  • Journey has started from New Delhi (2008), Addis Ababa (2011) and New Delhi (2015 where India has increased the ties  with the 54 African states through the African Union (AU).

India’s top five markets today are:-

    • South Africa
    • Nigeria
    • Egypt
    • Kenya and Togo.

The countries from which India imports the most are:-

    • South Africa
    • Nigeria
    • Egypt
    • Angola
    • Guinea.

India’s top three exports to Africa are:-