- Africa’s perilous situation amid COVID-19
- Africa’s relation with China
- Africa’s relation with other countries
- India-Africa Relations
- Suggestions for deepening India’s engagement with Africa
Drawing closer in crisis
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- Africa Day is observed every year on May 25 to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (now known as the African Union).
- The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses has hosted an Africa Day Round Table annually for the last four years.
Africa’s perilous situation amid COVID-19
- With high rates of HIV, malaria, diabetes, hypertension and malnourishment prevalent, a large number of Africans were already faced with a health and economic crisis.
- The steep decline in commodity prices has spelt disaster for the economies of Nigeria, Zambia and Angola.
- Together, African countries have sought a $100 billion rescue package, including a $44 billion waiver of interest payment by the world’s 20 largest economies.
- The IMF’s debt service relief of $500 million is meant for 25 countries of which 19 are in Africa.
- It is clear that without outside support, Africa will find it very difficult to meet the challenge.
Africa’s relation with China
- China’s engagement of Africa is huge but increasingly regarded as predatory and exploitative.
- Having famously built the 1,860 km Tanzania-Zambia railway line in 1975, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti and Mombasa-Nairobi lines more recently, China is now eyeing to develop the vast East Africa Master Railway Plan.
- It is also developing the Trans-Maghreb Highway, the Mambilla Hydropower Plant in Nigeria, the Walvis Bay Container Terminal in Windhoek and the Caculo Cabaca Hydropower project in Angola.
- At the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (COCAC) in 2018, China set aside $60 billion in developmental assistance, followed by a whopping $1 billion Belt and Road (BRI) Infrastructure Fund for Africa.
Africa’s relation with other countries
- Japan hosted the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) in August 2019.
- Russia hosted the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit last year.
- Brazil, home to the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa, has also sought to develop closer ties.
- Cuba has sent medical teams to help Africa.
- In the last few years, Prime Minister of India has redefined India’s relations with Africa.
- India-Africa trade reached $62 billion in 2018 compared to $39 billion during 2009-10.
- After South Asia, Africa is the second-largest recipient of Indian overseas assistance with Lines of Credit (LOC) worth nearly $10 billion (42 % of the total) spread over 100 projects in 41 countries.
- 40% of all training and capacity building slots under the Indian Technical and Economic cooperation (ITEC) programme have traditionally been reserved for Africa.
- Approximately 6,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in UN peace-keeping missions in five conflict zones in Africa.
- Bilateral cooperation includes solar energy development, information technology, cyber security, maritime security, disaster relief, counter-terrorism and military training.
- India has also launched several initiatives to develop closer relations, including the first-ever India Africa Defence Ministers conclave in February 2020 on the margins of the Defence Expo 2020.
- India provides about 50,000 scholarships to African students each year. The huge Indian diaspora is a major asset.
- India had planned to host the Fourth India Africa Forum Summit in September 2020.
- India has already despatched medical assistance to 25 African countries and reiterate India’s support in the fight against the coronavirus.
Suggestions for deepening India’s engagement with Africa
- India could consider structuring a series of virtual summits in zonal groups with African leaders across the continent over the next few months that could both provide a platform for a cooperative response to the pandemic and also serve as a precursor to the actual summit in the future.
- The Aarogya Setu App and the E-Gram Swaraj App for rural areas for mapping COVID-19 are technological achievements that could be shared with Africa.
- Since the movement of African students to India for higher education has been disrupted, India may expand the e-VidyaBharti (tele education) project to establish an India-Africa Virtual University.
- Agriculture and food security can also be a fulcrum for deepening ties.
- With the locust scourge devastating the Horn of Africa and the pandemic worsening the food crisis, India could ramp up its collaboration in this sector.
- India could also create a new fund for Africa and adapt its grant-in-aid assistance to reflect the current priorities. This could include support for new investment projects by Indian entrepreneurs especially in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors in Africa.
- India and Africa share a rich history of cultural, economic, and political interactions, rooted in the spirit of developing together as equals.
- Indeed, India-Africa ties may yet redefine the contours of the international order along more egalitarian lines.
- However, despite robust engagement for over 70 years, the Indian government has not had a clear, long-term strategy for its relations with the continent.
- Though the pandemic is a colossal challeng, it may create fresh opportunities to bring India and Africa closer together.