From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : African Union, G20
Mains level : Read the attached story
- Negotiators confirm the African Union (AU) will join the G-20, mirroring the European Union (EU) as a regional body within the group.
- India views this development as a significant achievement for the Indian Presidency in advancing the Global South’s interests in the G-20.
Landmark Diplomatic Shift in G20
- The AU’s potential entry into the G-20 signals a significant diplomatic shift, expanding the group’s representation and influence.
- China and Russia, despite differences on other issues, back the AU’s membership, highlighting the broader global dynamics at play.
What is the African Union?
- The African Union (AU) is an intergovernmental organization in Africa.
- It was established in 2002 as a successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
- It consists of 55 member states in Africa.
- Its primary objectives include promoting unity, cooperation, and development across the continent.
- It aims to address social, political, and economic challenges faced by African nations.
- It promotes peace, security, and stability in Africa.
History of India-Africa Relations
(1) Ancient Period:
- Ancient trade links: Indian merchants traded with the African coast for valuable goods like palm oil, gold, spices, and ivory.
- Maritime trade network: Trade routes expanded from Egypt to northern Somalia, Punt, Sudan, and Axum, enhancing economic and cultural ties.
(2) Medieval Era:
- Indian presence in East Africa: Gujarati and Saurashtrian merchants played a significant role in Africa’s east coast trade, using Indian systems of weights, measures, and currency.
- Development of internal links: Indian trade contributed to the development of internal connections within Africa, even before European involvement.
(3) Colonial Period:
- Impact of European colonialism: Indian presence in Africa changed under European colonial powers.
- Anti-apartheid struggle: Mahatma Gandhi’s involvement in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa laid the foundation for India’s solidarity with Africa.
- Advocacy against apartheid: India actively raised the issue of apartheid in international forums like the UN, NAM, and Commonwealth.
(4) Post-Colonial Period:
- Continuation of Afro-Asian solidarity: India’s approach to Africa has been guided by the vision of commerce in ideas and services rather than raw materials.
- Phases of engagement: From Nehru’s focus on Afro-Asian solidarity to phases of neglect and re-engagement, India’s Africa policy evolved.
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
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
- 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.
- 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.