India-African Union Relations

Mains Marks Booster     27th July 2023        
output themes

Introduction: Prime Minister Modi has proposed inclusion of the African Union (AU) into the G20 grouping — effectively making it G21. He has written to G20 leaders to propose that the African Union be given “full membership at the upcoming Delhi Summit of G20, as requested by them”. 

Present Status of Ties
  • Institutionalization of relations: The India-Africa Forum Summit serves as the framework for India-Africa relations under South-South Cooperation.
  • Expanded diplomatic presence: India announced the opening of embassies in 18 African countries, strengthening diplomatic ties.
  • Economic engagement: Bilateral trade between India and Africa has grown significantly, with India becoming Africa's third-largest trade partner.
  • Investment and development cooperation: Indian investments in Africa have increased, with the country being the seventh-largest investor in the region.
  • Lines of Credit (LoC): India's concessional LoCs support development projects in Africa, with 182 projects sanctioned, amounting to US$10.5 billion.
  • Bilateral cooperation: Collaboration includes areas such as solar energy, climate change, information technology, maritime security, counter-terrorism, and military training.
  • Soft power projection: India's ITEC program offers scholarships to African students, and the Indian diaspora contributes to cultural exchange.

Significance of Africa

Geostrategic Importance
  • Proximity to India: Africa's Horn region is critical for India's security due to emerging threats like radicalism, piracy, and organized crime.
Economic Significance
  • Diversifying energy sources: Africa can help India diversify its energy sources, aligning with the Integrated Energy Policy.
  • Rich resources: Africa possesses valuable minerals, metals, and abundant agricultural land, addressing India's need for food security and resources.
  • Market and investment opportunities: Africa provides a space for Indian investments and trade expansion, fostering economic cooperation.

India-Africa Trade: Key Stats

  • In the year 2021-22, India's trade volume with Africa reached a significant value of US$ 89.5 billion.
  • India has a close relationship with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which was founded in 1980. The SADC consists of 16 nations and represents 35.4 percent of Africa's land area, 28.4 percent of its total GDP, and 28.2 percent of its population.
  • India and SADC have a strong partnership, with total trade reaching $30.8 billion USD in mid-2021. Over the past 26 years, India has invested a total of US$ 69.9 billion in the SADC region.

Geopolitical Considerations
  • Support for UNSC seat: Africa's support is crucial for India's aspiration to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
  • Projection of soft and hard power: India showcases its soft and hard power in Africa, contributing to its global influence.
  • Peacekeeping and capacity building: India actively participates in UN peacekeeping operations and supports capacity building in African countries, strengthening bilateral ties.

Various Challenges 

  • Declining trade and investment: Bilateral trade and Indian investments in Africa have witnessed fluctuations, demanding efforts to enhance economic ties.
  • Short-term focus: LoCs have primarily funded small-scale projects, lacking a broader development perspective.
  • Competition from other powers: India faces competition from other countries like China, Brazil, and Russia, engaging Africa in various sectors.
  • Lack of synchronization: Development instruments like LoCs, grants, and capacity-building initiatives operate independently, lacking coordination.
  • Instances of racial attacks: Incidents of violence against African students in India pose challenges to people-to-people connections.

Chinese Challenge in Africa

  • China's extensive investments in Africa have significantly impacted the region across infrastructure, finance, natural resources, and maritime interests.
  • Access to resources, untapped markets, and support for the "One China Policy" drive China's engagement.

Strategies for India

  • Develop a focused Africa strategy: India should formulate a comprehensive strategy for the next decade, identifying key areas of cooperation.
  • Focus on capacity building: Investing in human capital is crucial for sustainable development in Africa.
  • Collaborate with civil society organizations and diaspora: Indian organizations and the diaspora can play a vital role in implementing development projects at lower costs.
  • Ensure timely project completion: Efforts should be made to expedite LoC projects, learning from countries with better implementation records.

Steps taken so far

  • Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program: India's ITEC program provides technical assistance to African countries, with around 50% of ITEC slots reserved for Africa.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor: The AAGC, a cooperation agreement between India, Japan, and African countries, aims for inclusive development.
  • Pan African e-Network: The PAeN facilitates tele-education and telemedicine in Africa, contributing to technological advancement.
  • Maritime cooperation: India's collaboration with African nations in the maritime domain, exemplified by joint exercises, promotes regional security.
  • Peacekeeping operations: India actively participates in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, supporting African counter-terrorism efforts and capacity building.
  • Duty-free tariff preferential scheme: India's scheme benefits African nations, and the India-Africa Forum Summit plays a vital role in strengthening ties.
  • India Africa Defence Ministers conclave: Initiatives like this enhance defence cooperation and bilateral relations.

Way Forward

  • Enhance mutual engagement: Organize the pending fourth India-Africa Forum Summit to further strengthen the relationship.
  • Allocate fresh financial resources: Allocate new resources for grants and concessional loans, prioritizing economic relations.
  • Focus on emerging sectors: Develop collaborations in health, space, and digital technologies to give a 21st-century dimension to the partnership.
  • Continued support in peacekeeping: Sustain India's contributions to peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, and capacity building in Africa.
  • Improve experiences of Africans in India: Ensure the safety and well-being of Africans studying or working in India, promoting people-to-people connections.
  • Promote development-friendly private investments: Align development cooperation with commercial interests to support mutually beneficial projects.
  • Strengthen international cooperation: Collaborate with international allies to address the China challenge in Africa, emphasizing partnership-based approaches.