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India and ECOWAS: A Comprehensive Partnership

by Arushi Singh - 29 December, 2021, 12:00 182 Views 0 Comment

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)[i] and India have strong ties with the latter achieving the status of Observer to ECOWAS in 2004. In short order after becoming an observer, India extended Line of Credit (LOCs) to ECOWAS in 2006 worth 250 million American dollars[ii] that were intended to supplement India’s Focus Africa program[iii] along with aiding regional integration for ECOWAS while offering additional opportunities for Indian companies to contribute in sectors such as energy, telecom and transportation in West Africa.[iv] Furthermore, India’s Export-Import (EXIM) Bank and Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) have collaborated to advance sectors such as Information and Communications Technology (ICT), portable water as well as agriculture with EXIM Bank extending LOC of 500 million American dollars in 2018.[v] Another area to see robust and active collaboration includes the sustainable energy sector with 20 million American dollars to ECOWAS Bank to fund the Solar Street Lighting project.[vi]

Furthermore, India’s Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd. (ECGC) has also provided ECOWAS with “political risk coverage” and removed an obstacle to investment in the region. Additionally, the ECOWAS EBID has cooperated with the EXIM Bank of India regarding the Indian government’s grant during the ‘India-Africa Project Partnership’ regional conclave.[vii] Consequently, India Africa Forum Summit 2008 saw the active participation of ECOWAS in cementing ties with India. In January 2010, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and ECOWAS embarked upon a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enable better trade ties and to accelerate investment prospects. Other ventures to increase cooperation include the Indian Government endeavours along with the Indian Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises to back the creation of ECOWAS Regional Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (RIMSME) and the constitution of ECOWAS-India Economic and Trade Forums in Nigeria and Ghana.[viii] All these attempts cemented ECOWAS and India’s comprehensive partnership and also provided a “strategic opportunity” to encourage sustainable development to enable additional South-South cooperation.[ix]

Subsequently, the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) took steps to make advancements in sustainable energy and to that end, signed an MoU with the International Solar Alliance (ISA), a cornerstone sustainable energy initiative founded by India.[x] According, the EBID was extended LOCs in 6 Solar Projects totalling 500 American dollars as part of the ISA.[xi] ECREEE also took part in the Delhi International Renewable Energy Conference and Indian experts have participated in the ECOWAS Support Program for Small Scale Hydro Power (SSHP) that is working to establish over sixty hydro sites of various proportions.[xii] SSHP is essential in achieving the objectives set forth by the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy (EREP) to boost the stake of renewable energy in the total electricity production to 19% by 2030. [xiii]280. In the same vein, ECREEE, in partnership with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), created and executed the programme for Promotion of a Sustainable Market for Photovoltaic Systems in ECOWAS Region wherein India provided training opportunities that took place in Bangalore.[xiv]

ECOWAS has supported India’s claim to a seat in the United Nations Security Council.[xv] India has presented itself as an effective dialogue partner of ECOWAS implementing a sub-regional program through Regional Economic Communities (RECs). ECOWAS has also participated in India-Regional Economic Communities Meeting to strengthen relations. The RECs meetings saw participation from multiple Departments/Ministries/Agencies of the Indian government along with civil society associations involved in effecting mutually approved agendas and schemes. Other objectives of the India-Regional Economic Communities Meetings encompass institutionalized cooperation; synchronisation of standards and regulations; establishment of common markets; and improvement in collaboration in the realms of “capacity building, human resource development, food and agriculture processing”. [xvi] A delegation of ECOWAS Agro-business leaders took part in the India–Africa Agro Business Forum.

India’s continued enhancement of cooperation with ECOWAS has resulted in strategic analysts propounding the possibility of New Delhi’s may possibly perform an essential part in the establishment of sustainable maritime security architecture in the ECOWAS nations and their territorial waters that have witnessed increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.[xvii] Notably, ECOWAS has been referred to as one of the pillars of the African Economic Community and India’s experience, know-how and technological prowess can be pivotal in the diversification of ECOWAS nations from resource-fuelled markets to knowledge-based economies.[xviii]

[i] “On the visit of a delegation from ECOWAS, various visits from US and response to a question on Nepal”, Ministry of External Affairs, April 4, 2006, URL: https://mea.gov.in/media-briefings.htm?dtl/3180/On+the+visit+of+a+delegation+from+ECOWAS+various+visits+from+US+and+response+to+a+question+on+Nepal, accessed on September 6, 2021.

[ii] “India grants $250 mn line of credit to ECOWAS”, The Hindustan Times, May 26, 2006, URL: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/india-grants-250-mn-line-of-credit-to-ecowas/story-8j4M52c6jDDKjAMgMUvZdL.html, accessed on September 7, 2021.

[iii] Aparajita Biswas, “Changing Dynamics of India-Africa Relations in the Twenty-first Century”, Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, v. 7, n. 1, 2012, pp. 23-30.

[iv] Kamini Krishna, “The India–Africa Partnership: Expanding Horizons in The Twenty-First Century”,

World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, v. 14, n. 2, 2010, pp. 114-130.

[v] “Exim Bank extends $500 million loan facility to 15 African nations”, Mint, March 26, 2018, URL: https://www.livemint.com/Industry/6xAFNBfp719sEsRFWhnRRK/Exim-Bank-extends-500-million-loan-facility-to-15-African-n.html, accessed on September 12, 2021.

[vi] India-Africa: South-South Trade And Investment For Development, The Confederation Of Indian Industry and World Trade Organization, 2013, URL: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/devel_e/a4t_e/global_review13prog_e/india_africa_report.pdf, accessed on September 6, 2021.

[vii] Abhishek Mishra, “Assessing Indian investments in West Africa”, Observer Research Foundation, March 6, 2019, URL: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/assessing-indian-investments-in-west-africa-48768/, accessed on September 6, 2021.

[viii] “2016 Annual Report, Ecowas Common External Tariff (Cet): Achievements, Challenges And Prospects”, ECOWAS Commission, November, 2016, URL: https://www.ecowas.int/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Annual-Report-2016_English-Fina_Final.pdf,  accessed on September 11, 2021

[ix] Arushi Gupta, “ORF Occasional Paper Regional Integration in West Africa: The Evolution of ECOWAS”,   Observer Research Foundation, August 2015, URL: https://orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/OccasionalPaper_67.pdf, accessed on September 12, 2021.

[x] “ECREEE signs MoU with International Solar Alliance”, ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE),URL: http://www.ecreee.org/news/ecreee-signs-mou-international-solar-alliance,  accessed on September 10, 2021.

[xi] “Annual Report, 2019-20”, Ministry of External Affairs, URL: http://www.mea.gov.in/, accessed on September 7, 2021.

[xii] “ECOWAS Workshop validated 5 million Euro Program on Small Scale Hydro Power”, ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, URL: http://www.ecreee.org/news/ecowas-workshop-validated-5-million-euro-program-small-scale-hydro-power-0, accessed on September 7, 2021.

[xiii] “ECOWAS Small Scale Hydro Power Program (SSHP)”, ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, URL: http://www.ecreee.org/page/ecowas-small-scale-hydro-power-program-sshp, accessed on September 7, 2021.

[xiv] “2014 Annual Report”, ECOWAS Commission, 2014, URL:

https://www.ecowas.int/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2014-Annual-Report_English_Final-version.pdf, accessed on September 8, 2021.

[xv] “15-nation African group backs India’s claim to UNSC seat”, Outlook, April 5, 2006, URL: https://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/15-nation-african-group-backs-indias-claim-to-unsc-seat/375969 , accessed on September 7, 2021.

[xvi] “3rd India- Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Meeting”, Ministry of External Affairs, August 20, 2014, URL: https://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/23943/3rd+India+Regional+Economic+Communities+RECs+Meeting, accessed on September 8, 2021.

[xvii] Abhijit Singh ,“Combating Gulf Of Guinea Piracy – Between ‘Devil’ and the ‘Deep Sea’”, MP-IDSA, 2015, URL: https://idsa.in/africatrends/combating-gulf-of-guinea-piracy_asingh_0315, accessed on September 6, 2021.

[xviii] Rajiv Bhatia, “India Undeclared Year of Africa”, Vivekananda International Foundation, December 29, 2010,URL: https://www.vifindia.org/2010-India-undeclared-year-of-Africahttps://www.vifindia.org/2010-India-undeclared-year-of-Africa, accessed on September 6, 2021.

Arushi Singh
Author is currently studying a master's degree program at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations (GIR) at Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
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