The story of India and Africa’s partnership embodies an equal, consultative, and collaborative relationship.
These principles essentially outline the Indian approach towards development cooperation with African countries. What the Indian model offers to African countries is a unique blend of developmental package, technology transfers and skill, and infrastructure development which are in accordance with African needs and priorities and is non-conditional, unlike China or some western donors. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, India stood in solidarity with Africa. Both the sides worked closely to ensure that repatriation of each other’s nationals, through the arrangement of special flights, was carried out smoothly. Moreover, despite severe shortages at home, India tried its best to provide vaccination doses to the African countries to the extent possible. This included medical assistance worth US$5 million to 25 African countries, and 39.65 million doses of ‘Made in India’ Covid vaccines to 42 African countries. This is the context in which the 17th edition of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Export Import (EXIM) Bank Conclave on India-Africa Growth Partnership took place on 19-20 July 2022. Over 1000 representatives from governments and businesses from various African countries attended the conclave.
The diverse set of engagements in education, healthcare, agriculture, defence and security, science and technology, capacity building, and infrastructure which India has laid down for the interested and willing countries from Africa is much appreciated by the recipients.
The challenge and opportunity for Indian companies is to find ways to create and add value to products. Value addition would integrate Africa to the global value chain (GVC) and would give the continent that added edge. The idea is to take the manufacturing base closer to the African markets and come up with sub-regional and targeted strategies in order to create products to serve local needs and generate employment. If India is to enhance its trade and investment relations with Africa, it would need to pursue an integrated approach comprising, inter alia, integrating Africa to the GVCs, strengthening Africa’s infrastructure and connectivity, and facilitating trade finance in Africa.
The idea is to take the manufacturing base closer to the African markets and come up with sub-regional and targeted strategies in order to create products to serve local needs and generate employment.
The last decade has witnessed a surge in digital innovations and mobile phone ownership across developing nations, particularly in India and sub-Saharan African countries. But as an entire continent, Africa continues to trail other regions of the world in terms of digital penetration, usage, and capabilities. Africa’s digital infrastructure is still lingering in its early growth stages, but there is immense potential to unify the continent through digital and emerging technologies. India has launched unique digital initiatives aimed at digital transformation like Digital India, BharatNet, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, IndiaStack etc. Together with a targeted approach towards skills development, if these Indian initiatives are implemented properly in African countries, their economies could benefit greatly and could also help young Africans become more employable. Unlike countries like China, Korea, or Singapore, India is a large federal democracy. It provides a more relatable model to the challenges Africa faces than other Asian counterparts. India’s digital transformation serves a better model to understand how Africa can compete globally. Financing clean energy is also an important area of engagement. Africa only accounts for 3.8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, in contrast to China’s 23 percent, the United States’ 19 percent, and the European Union’s 13 percent. Therefore, the idea is not to reduce Africa’s carbon footprint, but to find innovative ways to sustainably harness its existing resources to meet its growing demand for energy. This is where India, through the International Solar Alliance, could provide solar energy solutions to African countries. India has already earmarked concessional LOCs worth US$2 billion for solar projects, largely off-grid, in Africa and has partnered with the African Development Bank Group to develop 10,000 MW of solar power systems across the Sahel region, aimed at improving electricity access for Africans.
The African pharmaceuticals industry is still at an infant nascent stage and this provides huge opportunities for the Indian pharmaceuticals industry that is capable of providing generic medicines at affordable prices.
The story of India and Africa’s partnership embodies an equal, consultative, and collaborative relationship. The structured engagement and cooperation works in three tiers—at a pan-Africa, continental level with the African Union; at regional and sub-regional level with the various African Regional Economic Communities; and bilaterally, with individual African countries. Dialogues like CII-EXIM Bank Conclave, IAFS, Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, and India-Africa Defence Ministers Conclave add vigour and vitality to the partnership and ensure regular and sustained interactions. These partnerships have taken place under different circumstances and realities and are currently at varying degrees of intensity. Even so, by recognising the varying priorities of African countries and fine-tuning its own ways of engaging with the continent in order to respond to global challenges, India has demonstrated its willingness, capacity, and capability to elevate the India-Africa partnership to new horizons.
Africa’s digital infrastructure is still lingering in its early growth stages, but there is immense potential to unify the continent through digital and emerging technologies.
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Abhishek Mishra is an Associate Fellow with the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (MP-IDSA). His research focuses on India and China’s engagement ...Read More +