Crafting a unique partnership with Africa (The Hindu, G.S.-2, International relation)

Crafting a unique partnership with Africa (The Hindu, G.S.-2, International relation)

Context:- The Government of India has designed a forward ­looking strategy to deepen relations with African countries. New Delhi’s  engagement with the African continent has been multifaceted, with projects implemented under Indian lines of credit, capacity ­building initiatives, and cooperation in a range of sectors which is critical to its foreign policy matrix.

Why Africa is important for India:-

  • Africa has 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land
  • Africa employs over 60%  of the workforce which accounts for almost 20% of Sub­Saharan Africa’s GDP, agriculture is critical to Africa’s economy. 
  • The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement  is expected to improve cost competitiveness by reducing and abolishing the tariffs.

India and Africa relation so Far:-

  • India’s relations with Africa date back to ancient Indus valley civilisation which had the relation with the egyptian civilisation and with mesopotamian civilisation.
  • 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 traveller 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.

Analysis of Chinese engagement in Africa:-

  • China is one of Africa’s largest trading partners along with Africa’s single biggest creditor.
  • Its corporations dominate the region’s infrastructure market  and are now entering the agri infra sector.
  • Primary drivers of Chinese engagement with the region are:-
    • Access to Africa’s natural resources along with its untapped markets 
    • Huge Support for ‘One China Policy’ from African nations.
  • Chinese­ built industrial parks and economic zones in Africa which are attracting low cost, labour intensive manufacturing units that are relocating from China for low cost benefit.
  • Chinese tech companies are laying critical telecommunications infrastructure, venture capital funds are investing in African fintech firms which are ever expanding across the region.
  •   Chinese firms are introducing agri­tech to combat traditional challenges in agriculture such as pest attack by using drone technology.
  • Chinese companies have set up over 20 Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers (ATDCS) in the continent where Chinese agronomists are working on developing new crop varieties and increasing crop yields.
  • These ATDCs partner with local universities, provide training and lease equipment and conduct workshops and classes for officials and provide training and lease equipment to smallholder farmer.
  • African agriculture experts, officials and farmers are to be trained in China.
  • China­ Africa economic ties are emerging as an alternative to traditional western powers and has motivated change in perceptions across groups.
  • Africa­-China relations are becoming more complex with a growing diaspora, a lopsided trade, a looming debt, competition with local businesses and a negative perception accompanied by greater political and socioeconomic interlinkages.

India’s Developmental Efforts in Africa:-

  • Support in Fight 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, at all levels 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: Bilateral, Regional and Multilateral.
  • 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.
  • India has also unveiled the Vision Document of the Asian Africa Growth Corridor which is jointly prepared by Indian and Japanese think tanks.
  • Asia Africa Growth Corridor:-The corridor will focus on Developing Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, skill enhancement, and People-to-People Partnership.

What India Must Do or way forward:-

  • It is important for India to make African foreign policy in cognizant of China’s increasing footprint in the region.
  • A thorough impact assessment needs to be conducted on existing capacity building projects.
  • A detailed survey of participants who have returned to their home countries in Africa.
  • The Government of India should incentivize Indian industries to tap into African agri­business value chains and connect Indian technology firms and startups with partners in Africa. 
  • We know that African agri­tech sector as the startup ecosystem in the continent enjoyed a 110% growth between 2016 and 2018 so further this opportunity must be trapped.
  • There are also proposals to create a jointly owned brand of Africa Kollam cashews such other areas must be scrutinized by the sub national governments in other sectors.

    Download Plutus IAS Daily Current Affairs of 6 July 2021


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