India has had centuries-old connections with Africa with brisk travel and trade across the Indian Ocean, colonial linkages and ties forged in the post-colonial days of South-South cooperation and Third World solidarity. The warm friendly ties have been interspersed with periods of benign neglect as India’s strategic and economic priorities turned to forging closer relations in other parts of the globalised world.
In 21st Century India has emerged as a reliable partner in development efforts by African nations providing credit lines, helping in human resource development and building infrastructure. The changing balance of power in world, ascending China and dynamic Africa has given new vigour and dimensions to India Africa relationship in recent times which is expected to continue.
What are the focus areas?
Africa matters to India due to a mix of political, strategic and economic considerations, including maritime, energy and food security. Africa’s interest in what India stands for and offers, has been growing. India has been an important partner in African development odyssey.
Africa’s is an emerging force with the continent’s collective GDP expected to touch $3.6 trillion by 2020, a burgeoning market projected to expand to $1.4 trillion by 2020 and population of 125 million, providing huge opportunities for India and Africa to strengthen ties in diverse areas. Africa is key to India’s economic and maritime interests in the Indian Ocean region.
Indian investment has risen as opportunities opened up in the African markets, with several high growth economies. Indian investments are around $33 billion. Trade has been on an upward path and currently at an estimated $70 billion.
Africa’s automotive sector is growing on the back of rapid urbanisation, a growing consumer base with rising disposable income and a huge regional market.
It needs investments for creating infrastructure in ports, roads and railways, and training programmes to build a skilled labour force.
India’s capability in high value-added production and manufacturing along with African products and technology would help in developing a mutually rewarding long-term partnership. Indian expertise and human resources in building roads, airports, ports, railways, economic zones and industrial corridors can be shared.
A unique opportunity lies in Africa’s agriculture sector which suffers from low productivity, limited use of technology, lack of high yielding varieties of crops and good quality seeds. This opens a window for Indian entrepreneurs in field of agriculture, fertilizers and Indian institutes engaged in production of new crop varieties.
New areas of cooperation have opened up with Indian plans to import 1lakh tonnes of arhar and moong dal from Mozambique on a government to government basis.
Africa is a major energy source for India with Nigeria and Angola supplying a major part of India’s oil imports and South Africa exporting coal to India. Mozambique is also the third largest exporter of gas after Qatar and Australia; OVL and Oil India have a stake in a gas block in the Rovuma Basin.
A natural and lucrative partnership between India and Africa is waiting to happen in renewable energy. India has set a target of adding 175 Gigawatts of capacity in the next seven years and East Africa is witnessing significant advancements as well. Indian solar energy firms can partner with African banks to advance low-interest loans for purchase of equipment — solar panels, and solar-powered water heaters, lamps and TVs — and then invest in facilities to manufacture solar equipment. There are gains on both sides.
International Solar Alliance provides a golden opportunity to strengthen and diversify co-operation in energy sector. India has already started “solar mamas training programme” that equips older village women on installing and maintaining village solar equipment.
India can also unleash massive possibilities in digital penetration in the continent. The Digital India initiative can be useful as Africa steps up its IT spend on e-government solutions, new banking platforms, security to information management.
Indian industry has technical expertise in these areas as well as in setting up low cost IT parks which could be an asset to Africa’s nascent IT sector.
India provides huge opportunities to Africa in areas of education and health sector. India has been providing health services through Pan -African network. Africa is also destination for India’s generic drug industry and thus helping Africa with cost effective healthcare.
Indian is emerging as a major destination for African students. Along with this collaboration with Africa universities, faculty exchange programmes can be started to strengthen the co-operation in the field of education.
India has taken significant strides in the field of science and technology especially in areas of pharma, satellite systems, communication system, IT etc. India can provide help to African nations in all of these sectors.
African nations and India have been victim of terrorism and therefore have common interest in tackling the menace of terrorism and can put a common voice on the issue on major global foras.
Both have significant interests in reforming multilateral institutions and especially UNSC. African support for Indian permanent membership for UNSC will provide a boost to Indian credentials.
With east African nations defence co-operation was the major thrust areas during last year. India has been offering itself as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region and trying to attract African nations.
What are areas of concern?
Though India-African relations are on ascendency there are several areas of concern.
India and Africa together represent 250 million of population and both suffer from poverty, hunger. Any collaboration among India and African nations must focus on human development which can come only when there is peace and stability which should define the contours of relationship.