From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : India-Africa Forum Summit
Mains level : Paper 2- India's policy for African countries
The article deals with India’s strategy to deepen the ties with African nations and suggest a critical review of the implementation of India’s strategy.
Need for review of India’s foreign policy for Africa
- Africa is considered a foreign policy priority by India.
- Even as the COVID-19 era began in March 2020, New Delhi took new initiatives to assist Africa through prompt despatch of medicines and later vaccines.
- But now the policy implementation needs a critical review.
Four factors that explain need for a review of policy implementation
1) Declining trade
- Declining trade: Bilateral trade valued at $55.9 billion in 2020-21, fell by $10.8 billion compared to 2019-20, and $15.5 billion compared to the peak year of 2014-15.
- Decline in investment: India’s investments in Africa too saw a decrease from $3.2 billion in 2019-20 to $2.9 billion in 2020-21.
- The composition of the India-Africa trade has not changed much over the two decades.
- Mineral fuels and oils, (essentially crude oil) and pearls, precious or semi-precious stones are the top two imports accounting for over 77% of our imports from Africa.
- India’s top five markets today are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Togo.
- The countries from which India imports the most are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Angola and Guinea.
2) Covid impact
- COVID-19 has brought misery to Africa.
- As on June 24, 2021, Africa registered 5.2 million infections and 1,37,855 deaths.
- A recent World Health Organization survey revealed that 41 African countries had fewer than 2,000 working ventilators among them.
- Despite these shortcomings, Africa has not done so badly.
- Sadly though, with much of the world caught up in coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic’s ill effects, flows of assistance and investment to Africa have decreased.
- While China has successfully used the pandemic to expand its footprint by increasing the outflow of its vaccines.
- Unfortunately India’s ‘vax diplomacy’ has suffered a setback.
3) Global competition for influence
- Africa experienced a sharpened international competition, known as ‘the third scramble’, in the first two decades of the 21st century.
- A dozen nations from the Americas, Europe and Asia have striven to assist Africa in resolving the continent’s political and social challenge.
- These nations, in turn, stand to benefit from Africa’s markets, minerals, hydrocarbons and oceanic resources, and thereby to expand their geopolitical influence.
4) Geopolitical tensions in Asia
- Geopolitical tensions in Asia and the imperative to consolidate its position in the Indo-Pacific region have compelled New Delhi to concentrate on its ties with the United Kingdom, the EU, and the Quad powers, particularly the U.S.
- Consequently, the attention normally paid to Africa lost out.
- This must now change.
Way forward for India-Africa relation
- For mutual benefit, Africa and India should remain optimally engaged.
- The third India-Africa Forum Summit was held in 2015.
- The fourth summit, pending since last year, should be held as soon as possible, even if in a virtual format.
- Fresh financial resources for grants and concessional loans to Africa must be allocated, as previous allocations stand almost fully exhausted.
- The promotion of economic relations demands a higher priority.
- Industry representatives should be consulted about their grievances and challenges in the COVID-19 era.
- To impart a 21st-century complexion to the partnership, developing and deepening collaborations in health, space and digital technologies is essential.
- India should continue its role in peacekeeping in Africa, in lending support to African counter-terrorism operations, and contributing to African institutions through training and capacity-enhancing assistance.
- To overcome the China challenge in Africa, increased cooperation between India and its international allies, rates priority.
- The recent India-EU Summit has identified Africa as a region where a partnership-based approach will be followed.
- When the first in-person summit of the Quad powers is held in Washington, a robust partnership plan for Africa should be announced.
India should review the policy implementation and make changes in line with the changing geopolitical realities.