Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

India-Africa relations


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.

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