G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

African Union’s Entry into G-20: A Global Diplomatic Shift


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: African Union, G20

Mains level: Read the attached story

african union

Central Idea

  • 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.

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.

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