India Africa Forum Summit
With India and Africa sharing not only a common geological history but also recent history in terms of history of colonization and challenges of poverty, disease and development, organization of India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) seems quite apt. India and Africa have shared interest in battling terrorism and piracy as well.
It began in 2008 in New Delhi where 15 states from African Union (AU) participated. The participation of states from AU was according to Banjul Formula. The same methodology continued in the second IAFS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2011.
While China has been in Africa’s infrastructure, mining, oil and natural gas sectors for many years, India, despite moving late, has worked through training, education and capacity-building programmes — which have been very well-received by the countries. Over the last 15 years, India-Africa trade has gone up 20 times, and reached, according to the government, $ 70 billion. Indian investment in Africa is between $ 30 billion and $ 35 billion. India has given concessional credit to the tune of $ 7.4 billion, of which $ 3.5 billion has been disbursed. The credit lines have helped create 137 projects in 41 countries. A Pan-African e-Network for education and health is functional in 48 countries. Since 2008, India has extended 40,000 scholarships to African countries.
Modi government departed from the usual protocol this time, and invited 54 nations from Africa to participate in IAFS in Delhi. This also led to fallout of African leaders asking to hold the Summit every 5 years instead of three.
History of Engagement through Summit
- IAFS-1: India had offered duty-free market access to Africa’s least developed countries.
- India had promised $ 5 billion in soft loans, half a billion in grants, institution building and training fellowships to Africa
- Attended by atleast 41 head of states
- It saw PM engaging in bilateral talks with all leaders of African countries
- India announced line of credit of $ 10 billion apart from additional grand of $600 million.
- With a view to harnessing the youth power of the continent, India more than doubled scholarships for Africans to 50,000 over the next five years.
- India also decided to expand the Pan Africa E-Network, a defining digital connectivity project that currently encompasses 48 African countries for tele-medicine and tele-education.
- The IAFS-III mapped out a blueprint for joint development of the blue economy and forged a comprehensive framework for proactive collaboration on a range of cross-cutting issues, including terrorism, piracy, cyber security, climate change, sustainable development, WTO negotiations and UNSC reform.
- Looking ahead, the summit underlined the convergence of India and Africa on fast-tracking the expansion of the UNSC, with both sides supporting permanent seats for India and Africa in a reformed UNSC.
- Agreement to set up a joint monitoring mechanism to track implementation of agreed projects to ensure that there is no gap between ideas and action.
Way Forward and Improvements
- India need to engage more even at bilateral levels with each country, besides the multilateral forum of IAFS. This would lead to better identification of challenges of specific country and India’s probable co-operation to tackle that.
- The IAFS process needs to better leverage two strong assets that have hitherto remained untapped: the vibrant Indian private sector and the Indian diaspora in Africa.
- India, can help many least developed countries achieve the objective of last mile connectivity and effective delivery of numerous social programs.
- IAFS should not be seen as a donor conference, rather it should be seen as India as a partner, in development of Africa.
It would be challenging for India, to challenge the competition from China, but India approach has been unique in focusing on raising the in house talent of African people than exporting solutions. The IAFS process has shown the promise of Indo-African partnership. The current global economic stagnation only enhances the relevance of a mutual interface between the world’s fastest growing continent and the world’s fastest growing major economy.