India and Africa are linked not just by history and culture, but by geography also. Africa is the mother continent. India gets separated by the continental drift. 

Our destinies are also interlinked. Pt. Nehru says that “India’s independence is incomplete without the liberation of Africa”. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says, “India-Africa partnership is a bonafide two-way street”. Current Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi suggests, “India-Africa relations go beyond strategic consideration. It is a relationship of emotions, history, culture, commerce and kingship”. This content is curated for a complete analysis of “Evolution And Importance of India Africa Relations Through Various Dimensions”.

During the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015; PM Modi says that Africa is a top priority of his foreign policy. India is giving top priority to Africa is evident from the fact that in 2015; PM Modi visits Seychelles and Mauritius and delivers the vision of “BLUE ECONOMY” and “SAGAR (Security and Growth for All Region)”. 

In 2016, President of India visited Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia in West Africa and Vice President visits Morocco and Tunisia. PM Modi visits strategically most important countries of South and East Africa like Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

Evolution And Importance of India Africa Relations:

Indo-African Bilateral Relations and Trade

The Consideration Ground for Indo-African Relation:

  • Importance of Africa for India
  • The current state of relation
  •  Evolution of India-Africa relations
  • Challenges and opportunities
  • Recent Initiatives
  • Future Roadmap

Geo-Strategic Tie up between India-Africa:

We share the Indian Ocean and Africa at present is becoming the hub of Islamic fundamentalism, transnational terrorism, privacy and organized crimes. Thus it has become crucial from the perspective of non-conventional security threats. Recently China has also acquired a naval base in strategically located Djibouti in the horn of Africa.

Indo-African Geo-Economic Linkage: 

Africa is fast emerging and trading partner of India. There is significant growth in India’s trade with Africa. The bilateral trade was $ 4.8 Billion in 1997-98, and now it reached $ 68 Billion in 2013-14. It is likely to touch the target of $ 117 Billion by the year 2020.

Currently, the average growth rate of trade is 5% per year. Africa has much importance to India’s “Make in India Initiative”; as it is a rich source of natural resources. (At present, the bilateral trade between China and Africa is more than $ 200 Billion). Africa is also becoming important from the perspective of investment. 

India’s investment in Africa is reaching to $ 35 Billion; however, Chinese investment is $ 75 Billion and planning to invest $ 1 Trillion in Africa. It has become essential for India’s energy security, considering the instability in the middle east. It has started contributing 1/3rd of India’s energy requirement from hydrocarbon.

Indian companies are also investing in the hydrocarbon sector; in offshore oil exploration, providing engineering services, procurement and other services. The countries from where we are importing oil are; Nigeria, Sudan, Mozambique, South Sudan, Libya, Egypt and Gabon. Africa also has the potential for addressing India’s food security. India and Africa together form the market of 2.25 Billion people. Africa has 15% of total global oil reserves. 

India-Africa Geo-Political Scenario: 

Africa plays a vital role in geo-political ambition like reform in UN security council., comprehensive convention against terrorism, climate change talks, Doha talks, South-South cooperation and in India’s soft power building.

India and Africa also have a familiar corner like maritime security, social and ecological security. Though Africa continues to face multiple challenges, yet things are also changing for better once. Once it is known as DARK continent and now is transforming into hope for the globe.

Africa is in the state of revival, renewal, resurgence and renaissance. Because of this, all significant countries are increasing their engagement with Africa. Developed countries are already present in Africa. Africa has always been important USA, Britain, France and Japan. 

Japan has a particular programme for Africa’s development; known as Tokyo Infrastructure Conference on African development since 1993. Japan has contributed $ 30 Billion for Africa’s development. Japan is deficient, and Africa is rich in natural resources. 

At present India and Japan has the plan to work together. Much before India, China has made deep penetration in Africa and not only giving fierce competition to India but even challenging the US hegemony by chequebook diplomacy. 

Present Opportunities:

At present, India and Africa share challenges as well as opportunities. They form “Integrated Geo-Strategic Land Scape”. Once the world was talking about the Asian Century, but now we are talking about Afro-Asian Centuries.

India’s first PM Pt. Nehru has been an advocate of Afro-Asian solidarity. India shares many challenges with Africa. 

E.g., the magnitude of poverty, social diversity, internal security challenges, ecological challenges. However, they also share opportunities. They compliment each other in all aspect. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Stand to Strengthen Bilateral Relationship: 

Promises and Deliveries:

In 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit, India has promised concessional credit of $ 10 Billion and granted for the same. India has expressed its support for Africa’s agenda for 2063. The attitude of Gandhi towards Africans has guided India’s approach towards Africa. Gandhi says, “the commerce between India and Africa will be the commerce of ideas and services; not the manufacturing goods and raw materials after the fashion of western exploiters”.

According to Rani D’ Mullen, at present, we are witnessing remarkable consensus between India and Africa on various issues. The systematic and domestic factors are bringing them together. The era of massive engagement has just started. According to the former diplomat Rajiv Bhatia, India is a source of great hope for Africans, who have been disappointed with the exploitative and grabbing approach of a Chinese businessman.

It is suggested that India should continue to be guided by Gandhi’s approach towards Africa rather than imitating China or any other countries. Africa needs to be handled with much sensitivity.

Phases of India-Africa Relations:

First Phase (Till the 1960s):

Close relations with Africa and India actively lobbied for African independence and citizen racial policies. However, India was disappointed with the attitude of African countries concerning the 1962 war. The stand of African countries was neutral, which was unexpected. It is to be noted that India had played a role in African independence, and even China has played. China has provided support to the communist group in Africa. 

Second Phase (1970-80):

Though India kept on raising the issue of apartheid at the platform of the United Nations General Assembly and kept on working with African countries on the platform of NAM; but there was not much attraction towards Africa. 

India’s focus was Pakistan. There was some unpleasant incident with a person of Indian origin in some countries. The Government of these countries accused Indian diaspora working as the agents of the Indian Government. The Government of India adopted hands-off policy, minimum contact with diaspora and advised persons of Indian origin to win the trust of their own country. 

At that time, even the Indian economy was inward-looking, and India was able to manage its needs through USSR and a handful of countries like Iran. 

Third Phase (Since The End of Cold War):

The new security environment has generated imperatives for India’s engagement with Africa. In the post-cold war situation, there is a growth of non-traditional security challenges. As India’s trade increases its energy requirement increase, maritime security became a paramount concern. New Economic Policy required India to look for new markets for trade and investment.

In 1990, global attention shifted towards Africa because, by this time, China has penetrated inside the African market and started challenging western hegemony. The new global concern also necessitates India and Africa to work together.

Since the end of the cold war, there has been political stabilization in most of Africa. There has been the integration of the African continent. African Union started taking the step for the promotion of democracy. Some of the African economies also became the fastest-growing economies. There was a rise in the middle class.

Above developments create the environment for greater engagement with Africa. 

Other Memorable Facts:

It is to be noted that the credit for renewing India’s relations with Africa goes to India’s private sector rather than Government. It is the private sector which has pushed the Government of India to look towards Africa. 

Though western scholars keep on talking about India-China rivalry in Africa, China’s presence in Africa has acted in the interest of India. At least India came out of inertia. China’s presence gives the momentum to fo India’s engagement. 

It is believed that “China had not made its massive presence; India’s entry would have been further delayed”. 

Is India and China Rivalry in Africa?

It is a favourite past time of western scholars to talk about India-China rivalry everywhere. However, as former PM Manmohan Singh suggests; there is enough space for India and China to grow together, and there is no rivalry. 

The so-called rivalry is a discourse; what exists is nothing but a competition. This competition is necessary to end India’s inertia. China indeed has a more significant presence in Africa with a bigger pocket. China-Africa bilateral trade is around $ 200 Billion; which is more than double of India’s bilateral trade with Africa. Similarly, China’s investment is more than double of India. China can afford luxuries chequebook diplomacy. In terms of engagement at the continental level, China is ahead by eight years.

Other Aspects of Indo-African Relationship:

India-Africa Forum Summit starts in 2008; whereas China’s engagement started in the year 2000; Forum for China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC). However, India need not worry about Chinese competition. It is not advisable that India adopts the Chinese way. India has many comparative advantages over China. 

According to Mahesh Sachdev, Former India’s high commissioner to Nigeria; India should not imitate China and should go for SWOT(strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

India is also a developing country with resource constraint. Whereas, India has to ensure transparency and accountability of its funds.

It should make African government stakeholder. India may not offer as much fund as China, but India can offer what Africa needs.

Africa is a young continent, with 50% of the population is the age group of 17-35 years. Hence the most critical requirement of Africa is the development of its human resource. India has a comparative advantage in a capacity-building task. This content is curated for a complete analysis of “Evolution And Importance of India Africa Relations Through Various Dimensions”.

India Enjoys Following Comparative Advantage: 

  • India’s positive image comes from its historical role. It played in Africa’s purpose for human dignity, anti-colonialism and anti-racialism. Indeed, the new generation may not have such memories. Yet this capital of India needs to be repackaged so that it becomes fresh and resonate with younger Africa.
  • India’s proximity to East Africa is the most significant advantage. The Indian Ocean does not separate us, but it connects us. Zanzibar is just 3000 miles from Mumbai. There is a massive opportunity for Indian companies in developing broadband connectivity, as Africa has the least broadband penetration. Indian private sector can explore the various way of digital connectivity, including submarine fibre optics.

Other Advantages with India are;

  • Geographical proximity also allows India as a privileged security partner of Africa; which strengthens India’s image as the net security provider in Indo-Pacific. Many East-African countries look for defence and security cooperation with India. India has engaged these countries at the bilateral level. Moreover, it also has provided surveillance radars Seychelles and Mauritius. India participates in IBSAMAR (IBSA Maritime Exercise) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) with the navies of Literal state.
  • India has a competitive advantage in contributing to internal security. It has tremendous experience in peacekeeping operations in Africa. Moreover, Indian peacekeepers have shown a remarkable capacity to develop good relations with locals. Up till now, more than 30000 Indian soldiers are deployed in various peacekeeping operations. Even at present, India is involved in Kongo, South Sudan, Liberia, Ivory Coast. India is also providing training to the military officials of more than 20 African countries at the Regional Centre for training in New Delhi.
  • The Indian model of penetration in the African economy has an advantage over the Chinese model. Indian model is driven by the private sector; private sector goes for the involvement of locals. Indian model is more sustainable than the Chinese model; led by the Government.

Indians Have a Better Capacity of Integration With Domestic Market Than Chinese Enclaves: 

Surveys show that India has a better image than Chinese in terms of transparency. There has been a more significant allegation of corruption against the Chinese in Africa.

India’s Engagement in Human Development and Capacity Building:

Considering India’s track record towards human development and capacity building; India becomes the first Asian country to get full membership of the African Union capacity-building foundation. Another considerable advantage of India is its dia-sphere. Around 1 million Indian dia-sphere is well integrated with African Society in comparison to the new Chinese dia-sphere. The prominent countries with diaspora are South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Seychelles and Madagascar. 

Among the company owners, 48% of people of Indian origin have African nationality in comparison to 4% of the Chinese diaspora.

India enjoys huge political capital along with social capital. The political capital of India comes from an initiative like NAM, IBSA, IORA(Indian Ocean Rim Association).

Last but not least, India’s most significant comparative advantage is India’s functional democracy. And African countries are moving towards a democratic form of Government and can learn a lot from India. This content is curated for a complete analysis of “Evolution And Importance of India Africa Relations Through Various Dimensions”.

India’s Weaknesses: 

It is said that “India Promises, China Delivers”. China has declared its Africa policy long time back, but India has not come up with any such vision document; like, India has announced “LOOK EAST, LOOK WEST, CONNECT CENTRAL ASIA”. Also, there will be a vision for Africa’s policy with greater clarity and predictability in both the private sector and financial institutions. 

In recent years, bilateral engagements are getting sidelined and, regional and continental level engagement primacy. There have been instances of racial attacks against African students and other members of African students and other members of the African community even in the capital city. African diplomatic community has expressed colossal resentment. Hence the Government of India needs to sensitize its people and should also provide the earliest grievance redressal.

Others Critical Dimensions are:

In recent years, there has been some resentment against certain Indian companies in Ethiopia and South Africa. They have been accused of land grabbing, corruption and unfair practices.

GoI has to enforce discipline in the private sector; which can also force pharmaceutical companies operating in Africa to contribute towards public health as Corporate Social Responsibility. 

India has to continue with the current momentum. Also, India needs to formulate Africa Policy by involving all the stakeholders, i.e., different ministries, private sectors, as well as the Indian diaspora.  

Super Edges are:

It is to be noted that even at present, we have not been able to utilize the potential of the Indian diaspora. Our engagement remains limited to the upper class. We have not reached to the middle and lower class. 

India should also have blurred vision. China is not the only competition; other countries are also present. India and China can also work together; as both have their own competitive advantages. India should continue to work with like-minded countries such as Japan, on the occasion of African Banks meeting at Gandhinagar. PM Modi has folded a joint vision of India and Japan towards the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region in the form of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. 

Asia-Africa Growth Corridor is a better alternative to China’s OBOR. The theme of growth corridor is “Sustainable and Innovative Development”. The four pillars of Idea are;

  • Development and Cooperative Project
  • Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connections
  • Capacity Building
  • People to People Contact

Thus, if OBOR is jus focusing on physical infrastructure; Growth Corridor focuses on human development with sustainability. The prime focus of OBOR is Eurasia; however, the attention of the Growth Corridor is on South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean. 

The main component of OBOR is, land connectivity; Growth Corridor is also focused on maritime connectivity. OBOR is China’s initiative led by the Chinese Government; whereas Growth Corridor will be multilateral and private. Sector initiative. The Chinese model is inclusive conditions with the high-interest rate; whereas the Growth Corridor model is cooperative. 

Closing Key Note:

Evolution And Importance of India Africa Relations Through Various Dimensions:

Views of Harsh V. Pant:

History is no longer enough to entice Africa. In today’s era, Africa has no scarcity of friends. India has to find ways to raise its profile consistently. Age-old ties have to be given modern makeover gain and gain.

Views of Rajiv Bhatia:

There is no question on our competency that we can do better or not. But there is a big question mark that do we have will to do, what is needed.

For the policymakers in Delhi; Gandhi’s guidelines should always be treated as guiding principles. We can not afford our relationship to be mere transactional or just strategic. It has to be a bonafide two-way street and a win-win situation for both.