The India-Africa Forum Summit process, that began in 2008, is a much needed intergovernmental attempt to give direction and thrust to bilateral synergies.
- In the economic domain, two sides only partially able to leverage their socio-economic similarities and complementarities (such as India’s growing need for Africa’s commodities and the suitability of Indian technology) .
- At IAFS-1, India had offered duty-free market access to Africa’s least developed countries.
- In IAFS-2, India promised $5 billion dollars in soft loans, half a billion dollars in grants, institution building and training fellowships to Africa.
- The IAFS process has given a fillip to cultural and informational contacts and mutual awareness.
- A welcome surge in people-to-people contacts as large numbers of African entrepreneurs, medical tourists, trainees and students have started coming to India.
Some contextual and challenging factors
- First, India is not alone in region, our competitors on the continent, such the European Union, China, Japan and the U.S. also have IAFS-type processes and often commit even more resources than we do.
- Second, in recent years, new drivers of the putative African century have emerged.
- These include lower commodity prices, greater democracy, rise in militancy, population growth, preponderance of youth and urbanisation.
How can the momentum achieved so far by the IAFS process be sustained or even accelerated?
- First, we need to inject greater bilateralism and balance into the process. Joint endeavour is more productive for both sides.
- Second, the IAFS process needs to better leverage two strong assets, Vibrant Indian private sector and Indian diaspora in Africa.
- Third, Need to improve the last mile of the delivery chain to ensure efficacy. e.g. Pan Africa e-Network project
- Fourth, India needs to make more vigorous efforts to inform its African friends about its contributions.
- As, Indian help in Ebola epidemic ravaged countries, received scant attention and publicity, partly because India delivered it multilaterally or in a piecemeal manner.
- By having a dedicated, commercially-driven Indian television channel for African countries may be a good beginning.
The IAFS process has shown the promise of Indo-African partnership. Indeed, the current global economic stagnation only enhances the relevance of a mutual interface between the world’s fastest growing continent and the world’s fastest growing major economy.