Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Drawing closer in crisis

The World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis, assessed that the COVID-19 outbreak has sparked off the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region’s first recession in 25 years.
By IASToppers
May 29, 2020


  • Introduction
  • 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
  • Conclusion

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.

India-Africa Relations:

  • 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.
Mains 2020 Editorial Notes

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