Relationship between India and Africa dates back to the time of Non Aligned movement, when President Josip Tito of Yugoslavia, President Gamel Nasser of Egypt, President Nkrumah of Ghana and Prime Minister Nehru had formed a partnership to promote the voice of countries of South. India’s involvement in Bandung Afro–Asian conference of 1955 further showed how India Africa partnership during that time was guided by ideological, political issues. Leadership guiding such a relationship wanted to take a stand against imperialism, colonialism and racism which were prevalent in countries of Africa. In 1950s, political and ideological principles drew these two countries towards an alliance. In the next two decades common developmental, economic challenges of India, Africa and a demand for a “New International Economic Order “ by them became key drivers of such an alliance. Post 1990s, a new framework of partnership between India and Africa has been developed.
Since mid-1990s, South South Cooperation has become the mantra of India, Africa partnership. A key element of this partnership has been economic diplomacy pursued by India. India has been engaged with Africa at regional and bilateral levels. At a regional level, India has been an observer in regional organisations like SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (Common Market for East and South Africa), ECOWAS (Economic Community for West African States). Moreover, India has maintained bilateral engagement with various countries of Africa. Such a bilateral engagement with Africa has developed through merchandise trade, investment, aids, exchange of knowledge, human resources and skills. Some of the sectors in which this engagement has gradually grown are –natural resources, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, health and food.
As a result of that, value of merchandise exports have grown at a larger rate than imports between India and Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Mauritius for items like transport equipment, machinery and instruments, pharmaceuticals, non-basmati rice, manufactured products, cotton-yarn fabrics, as well as primary and semi-finished iron and steel products. India has also expanded her trade relationship with Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and 17 other countries of Africa through the Focus Africa Programme. Outward foreign direct investments from India to Africa have increased by 32.5% between 1997 – 2008. Indian companies like ONGC have made equity oil investments in Ivory Coast, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, São Tomé and Sudan. Exploration and production blocks have also been acquired in Madagascar, Nigeria. India has been dependent on Africa to secure access to oil resources. This is not only important for India’s energy security but also it can help her to reduce the dependence on Middle East and other parts of the world for crude oil. As a responsible partner of South South collaboration to strengthen the economic diplomacy, India has taken measures to expand line of credits and grants to build up joint projects by involving players from Africa and India in sectors like railways, information technology (IT), telecommunications to generate multipliers for the economies of Africa in the long run. Presence of Indian companies have grown in agriculture, secondary, tertiary sectors through companies like Mahindra and Mahindra (which has provided tractors for agriculture sector in select countries of Africa),Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Tata Consultancy Services. Africa has also seen a spurt in the presence of major pharmaceutical companies (Ranbaxy, Cipla and Dr Reddy’s), consumer product firms (Emami and Marico), construction firms (Punj Lloyd and Shahpoorji Pallonji) from India.
However at the backdrop of this growing South South collaboration, since 2007, there has been a shift in the focus of the main instrument of South South Cooperation between India and Africa. The focus has shifted towards capacity building and enhancing measures in Africa by Indian institutions through exchange of knowledge, human resources and skills. This deliberate shift of focus has been created to start a process to enhance the trust levels between the people of India and Africa by understanding each other to a larger extent. Thus as an outcome of this exchange, there is a hope of formation of a new harmonized cultural identity of Africa India relationship that started way back in 1950s. This move towards exchange of human resources can be realized in the policy of countries of Africa who have welcomed knowledge expertise of various sectors from India to create larger social welfare for their nation. Thus, one can see that joint efforts are being made by India through the Pan African E Network to reduce the poverty of African youth by means of removal of the digital divide. Pan African E Network has been integrated with education and health care centres where through better technology the youth of Africa is provided timely, vocational, education and proper healthcare to address their basic developmental needs.
Capacity development in science and technology through knowledge and human resource exchange is an imperative to form a unified, harmonized identity of South South collaboration between India and Africa. In this regard, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India has extended CV Raman fellowships to support the training of students of Africa in science and technology at institutes of India. India is also expanding number of scholarships for students from Africa in agriculture, science & technology under the framework of enhanced cooperation supported by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. India is supposed to be the lead country in the Life and Earth Science segment of the Pan African University and IARI is engaged in developing capacity of institutions of Africa in agricultural research. Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme of Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India having 47 empanelled institutes of India like TERI, IIM (A), Administrative Staff College of India, RIS, ICISA, NIIT, APTECH and many others have facilitated such enhancement through knowledge exchanges between practitioners, mid-career professionals of Africa and India. These courses have created experience sharing between countries of Africa and India in the knowledge domain related to accounts, audit, banking, finance, telecommunication, english, management, rural development, specialized and technical fields, environment, renewable energy, sustainable development. Over the years, participation from Africa in these training programmes run by various Indian institutes and held in India has increased. These training programmes are now needed to be organized in various countries of Africa to accelerate the existing knowledge and cultural exchange between India and Africa. Implementation of capacity enhancing training programmes in Africa on several issues pertaining to sustainable development which are of common interest for India and Africa can be a way forward in this regard. This can be done through new capacity building institutions in Africa. India has already moved forward in this direction by proposing to build 21 new capacity enhancing institutions in various sectors of Africa.
Actions taken by India on South South collaboration with Africa after 2007 have shown that such an association is much beyond trade, investment, enhancement in the balance of payment of countries through cooperation. It is an exchange process in health, culture, sports that can define human development and a cultural identity. This has been evinced in the firm commitment shown by India towards research and development in medical services for rural areas through application of tele and e-health applications. It is also being manifested in the pledge of India against the usage of counterfeit medicines in Africa by promoting access to traditional medicines, practices for the rural population of Africa through larger research and development in such disciplines. Collaboration between India and Africa in the health sector for contributing towards Africa’s development has been evinced in India’s support directed for knowledge, experience sharing in health care systems, community health programmes and accelerated reduction of maternal mortality in Africa.
Post 2007, South South Collaboration in sports between India and Africa has started happening through an agreement to develop sports policies, training of trainers programme for India and Africa. Initiatives in cultural activities have begun through mutual cultural tours between India and Africa supported by ICCR. Cultural dance troupes supported by ICCR have gone to Africa for performance. Similarly, musicians, dancers and performing artists from parts of Africa have come to India for performance. Indian film festivals have been organized in Africa and collaborative projects have started happening leading to mutual development of creative industries in India and Africa. This is relevant as Bollywood (world third biggest film industry) has many things to learn from the world’s second biggest film industry in Nigeria. Such learning will only happen when there are exchanges of creative thinking. Proof of such exchanges within the entertainment industry lies in the title credits of Bollywood director Vishal Bhardwaj’s film “Kaminey” that acknowledges a script writer Cajetan Boy from Kenya for his script of the film “Kaminey”. Reports from Bollywood suggests that the script was bought for $4000 from Cajetan who was mentored by Vishal Bhardwaj in a script writing workshop at Uganda. This story, essentially summarises the changing paradigm of South South collaboration between India and Africa. It is about giving equal recognition to the human skills, knowledge, talents and creation of a space for cultural exchange to create a harmonized identity for mutual benefit of the people of India and Africa through trust and bondage. Such a human connection, bondage, will therefore secure the future of alliance, partnership between India and Africa in the next decades and for future generation.