That India and Africa have traditionally deep and historical links is a given. That India’s independence was a leitmotif for their struggle is also well documented. Since the early part of this century, India has made a concerted effort to embrace Africa and convert our traditional affinity into a more broad-based economic partnership. This was evident during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. India ensured that critical supplies of medicines and medical equipment reached countries in need in Africa till the second wave stopped all exports.
In a perceptive piece on IndiaAfrica engagement, Brookings Institute’s Stephen Karingi and Laura N. Naliaka said: “Building on a growing trade and investment portfolio, India now has a strategy with clear guiding principles and areas of focus. Moreover, underpinning the seriousness of India’s Africa policy shift, the country has made maritime security a key pillar in most of its engagement with countries like Kenya and South Africa.’’
This engagement, though, is not something new although one must admit that it has gathered considerable steam in the last few years. Economics has dictated the pace of the relationship. According to Business Today, “the African Union is India’s fourth largest trading partner after the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates, propped up by diversification in Indian exports to the continent. With a share of 8.52 per cent in global trade, India’s total trade with Africa in 2019-20 was valued at USD 68.33 billion. India has a negative trade balance with Africa, implying a dominance of imports over exports. In 2019-20, India’s trade deficit with Africa was valued at USD 9.1 billion, which accounted for nearly 6 per cent of India’s total trade deficit in the case of trade in goods.’’
But it is not all trade and acrossthe-counter deals. India’s infra majors like AFCONS and the Tatas are involved heavily in enhancing infra capacity across the continent. That apart, there is huge work in the areas of skill development, ITenabled capacity building initiatives, healthcare, agriculture and software.
In July 2018 during a visit to Uganda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a set of 10 guiding principles that will dictate India’s engagement with Africa. At the heart of these 10 points was the commitment that “Africa will be at the top of our priorities. We will continue to intensify and deepen our engagement with Africa. As we have shown, it will be sustained and regular.”
The 17th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Growth Partnership that begins on July 18 in New Delhi will be a key forum that will set the agenda for this decade. This is the first major physical interaction post-Covid and the two-day event is being graced by senior leaders from the continent and the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal. Their deliberations will tell us about the roadmap ahead.
(K.Srinivasan is Editor in Chief at Newsline Publishers and Editorial Director of Blitz India. He has over four decades of experience as a professional journalist)
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