India and Africa have traditionally shared excellent relations both at the individual country level and at the Pan-African level. Historical, political and trade ties are underpinned by the shared anti-colonial struggle in the 20th century. Indian Prime Minister (PM) Modi enunciated ten guiding principles for India’s engagement with Africa, during his address to the Ugandan Parliament in July 2018 and these form the bedrock for further strengthening and energising the relations between India and Africa going into 2022. The vision is to dovetail India’s growth story with Africa’s Agenda 2063, to spur mutual resurgence.
The people of Africa and India are among the many threads that link both sides and the special bonds of friendship and solidarity are testimony to the strong people to people connect which in turn feeds into the close partnership between the governments. India and Africa have many advantages that can be leveraged for mutual benefit including a young population or a youth dividend, and innovative and dynamic people. India is committed to supporting the aspirations of the African people and working together to address the key challenges that will continue to beset the world as we enter 2022. These include, among others, the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economies and on the health of people everywhere leading to a Health crisis; the climate crisis and its effect on sustainable green growth; the continuing threat of terrorism to national security and the uncertainties resulting from the actions of an increasingly assertive and aggressive China.
While taking forward the multifaceted engagement on the basis of PM Modi’s ten guiding principles, the maximum focus needs to be on empowering and skilling youth both in India and Africa. India’s development partnership with Africa would, as always, be guided by Africa’s priorities, on terms comfortable to them with a view to not constrain the partner country in any way and contribute to creating local opportunities and building local capacities among the young people, in each African country. It is the opportune time to unleash the untapped potential of the Africa-India partnership and for jointly leveraging opportunities to collaborate in all areas including Health, green and sustainable development, Education including skilling, IT, Agriculture, Digital economy including emerging technologies like AI, AR, Blockchain, etc. As emphasised by PM Modi, the “partnership will build instruments of empowerment in Africa. Two-thirds of India and two-thirds of Africa is under the age of 35 years and if the future belongs to the youth, this century is ours to shape and build”.
As part of the ethos of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam or the world is one family, India is happy to share its developmental experience with other friendly developing countries. The three India-Africa Forum Summits that have been held in 2008, 2011 & 2015 have been important platforms to deepen the relationship. Their wide-ranging agenda and concrete action plans and outcomes signify the strength and depth of the special ties between India and Africa.
Post Covid, India and Africa, besides focusing on rebuilding economies and businesses, will need to focus on augmenting health care infrastructure and ramping up collaborations in joint R&D to deal with new and emerging health threats. Training of health care workers especially for handling pandemics like Covid-19 and preparing paramedical staff are the need of the hour in the coming year. More Indian private sector companies like Dr Lal Path Labs, Metropolis Labs, etc should be encouraged to set up joint Testing Labs/ facilities, with local partners in African countries for the entire range of health tests including those for Covid-19. More Indian pharmaceutical companies need to be encouraged to set up manufacturing facilities in Africa to be able to meet the medicinal needs of all African countries. Units to manufacture PPE kits and other Covid-19 related equipment including special masks, disposable gloves, syringes, oxygen concentrators, etc. could be set up as joint ventures in Africa. The Apollo group has set up hospitals/ health centres in Africa but these are well below the requirement and demand for good medical facilities. The PPP mode would be a good way to ramp up health facilities and provide world-class facilities in Africa itself and alongside creating employment opportunities for local people.
Indian companies like the Tatas and the Mahindra group have set up facilities in Africa and as the auto sector turns to green tech both companies need to diversify their products and begin electric vehicle manufacturing in Africa.
African countries have been supportive of India’s Solar Alliance initiative and now is the time to seize the moment and make the switch to Solar Energy grids at the earliest given widespread availability of sunlight almost throughout the year; India’s PPP solar grandmothers initiative has benefitted many remote areas in Africa and the PPP model would be ideal for setting up solar energy grids in Africa bringing together Indian and African ingenuity and business acumen.
India and Africa have to deftly deal with the China factor and Africa in particular has to, while looking to secure its interests, prevent Africa from turning into a theatre for rivalry and competition.
Both India and Africa need to assess the partnership and its impact on the ground and adapt their approaches to take forward their relationship to the next level by taking on board the private sectors in both India and Africa.
Given the convergence of interests, 2022 will be an important year to transform ties into a mutually beneficial relationship.