India-Africa relations: The way forward
The article is set in the backdrop of recently held India Africa Forum Summit and traces some common threats and explores future areas of cooperation.
The India-Africa Forum Summit was held on 29 October 2015 in New Delhi with the theme Partners in Progress: Towards a Dynamic and Transformative Development Agenda. It was third summit in the series since the beginning of the forum in 2008.
The summit adopted the Delhi Declaration calling for transformative relationship in the coming decades. Besides, the summit also approved the 2015 India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation and Plan of Action to transform shared aspirations into reality.
India’s role in Africa
Development Assistance: India is one of the key partners of development in Africa. India’s development assistance is next only to the United Nations, Japan and China and since 2008, around 17.4 US billion dollars were pledged by India for augmenting Africa’s development.
In addition, India announced to provide a grant assistance of 600 million US dollars in the 2015 summit that will include an India-Africa Development Fund of 100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of 10 million US dollars.
Education: In the 2015 summit, India committed 50000 scholarships to African students to avail higher education in our country. India, in a joint initiative with the African Union, has launched the Pan-African e-network project in 2007 to support tele-education, telemedicine, e-commerce, e-governance, infotainment, resource-mapping and meteorological services to 54 African nations.
Civil wars & Conflicts: India is one of the largest contributors to UN Peacekeeping operations in Africa. Indian personnel are involved in four missions-Ivory Coast (since 2004), Congo (2005), Sudan & South Sudan (2005) and Liberia (2007).
Why Africa is relevant for India?
Source of minerals: Africa has rich mineral resource base. Apart from gold and silver, crude oil imports forms the basis of trade relationship between Indian and Africa.
In May 2015, Nigeria became largest oil exporter to India replacing Saudi Arabia. At present, around 26 percent of India’s crude oil imports come from Africa primarily led by Nigeria and Angola.
ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL), international arm of ONGC, has presence in five African countries-Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan and Mozambique-which shows deepening relationship in oil exploration and production.
Further, Africa’s capabilities as the next global provider of rare earth minerals will also help India to check China’s dominance in this strategic sector that is at the core of modern electronics industry.
Market for Indian made goods: In recent times, Africa emerged as one the prime destinations for Indian made goods due to improving living standards and quality of life in the continent.
According to World Bank data, Africa is richer than India on the basis of GNI, and a dozen African countries have a higher GNI per capita than China.
Hence, Africa will be the best bet for India in future also, as India’s production is set to increase over and above the consumption level under the ambitious Make in India initiative.
India’s recent decision to extend preferential treatment to least developing countries (LDCs), of which African countries form majority, in trade in services in the WTO is expected to extend the mineral resource-led trade momentum to even the services sector in near future.
Though the trade with Africa increased by 20 times in last 15 years it is way behind the stipulated 100 billion US dollars target set for 2015.
In the comparative sense, even the 100 billion trade target is far less than China’s 250 billion US dollars trade partnership with Africa.
Presence in Global institutions: African Union of 54 countries constitutes more than a quarter of UN members and their large presence will certainly boost India’s prospects for the UN Security Council permanent membership.
Getting elected to the UN Security Council for seven terms since 1945 and recent victories for India in elections to the important organizations like UNICEF, World Food Program, UN Habitat, etc could not have been possible without the help of African nations.
Areas of common interest
Demography: Though India and Africa vary in size, both have many commonalities on the demographic front, such as
• They have equal population of around 130 crore and together form one third of global population.
• With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Similarly, India too has around 18 percent of population in this segment.
• India is equivalent to Africa in terms of ethnic and linguistic diversity.
Against the backdrop of large youth population and high rate of unemployment rates, India and Africa can learn from each other to develop skills and reap demographic dividends.
Security: Taking into account the expanded ambit of security, both India and Africa face similar threats from internal and external sources in the form of-poverty, hunger, unemployment, insurgency, terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, piracy, diseases, etc.
New International Order: In order to press for more democratic global order, structural and procedural reforms in the global political and financial institutions like the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are mandatory. To achieve this, both the partners should strive for deeper engagement.
While the Non Alignment Movement (NAM) and resistance to cold-war politics and racism were the binding factors till 1990s’, new age Indo-Africa relationship is marked by bilateral and multilateral cooperation focusing on trade, investments, people-to-people exchanges and broad-based development aspirations.
It is high time, leadership in India and Africa realise people as their true resource, as recognised in the Delhi Declaration, and strive hard for betterment of lives as enunciated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
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