Millennium Post

Africa, India deserve a more perfect union

India’s relationship with Africa is vital in many ways. As a continent of 54 countries, it represents 28 per cent of the membership of the UN. Though it is diverse in many ways, one single call emanates and that is the urge for development. India has responded, belatedly, to Africa’s call to be a partner in its development process.

India began looking at Africa as a whole in terms of development assistance quite recently, with the impetus gained through the First India-Africa Forum Summit in 2008 and the Second India-Africa Forum Summit in 2011. Through this summit process, India could rope in 47 African countries. Though India had traditional links with some African countries, and while with some, like Egypt, it had close relationship after Independence, its engagement with the African continent has not been as intense as China could develop.

Better late than never, India has sought to engage itself with the resource rich continent. The basic approach is through the three-pronged strategy of development cooperation – technical assistance, line of credit (LoC) and grants. Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) was launched as early as in 1964 to share its development experiences with fellow developing countries, but the continent of Africa as a whole was not much in the focus. To give focus to the country’s development cooperation programmes, a separate Development Partnership Administration (DPA) was set up in the External Affairs Ministry in January 2012. For promoting economic diplomacy Investment and Technology Promotion (ITP) Division was also created.

Largely, India’s development assistance is routed through the African Union, which decides on the development needs of member countries. Other venues of India’s engagement are Economic Commission for Africa, Afro-Asian Rural Development Organisation (AARO), Pan African Parliament, Indian-Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).

As the development cooperation is mostly bilateral in nature, it is high time, India engages directly with each country in the continent. Individual country is better place to rightly project its development needs for striking a win-win situation for both. Otherwise, to deal with the diverse continent, India should engage with sub-regional groupings.

Recently South Africa hosted the 5th BRICS Summit with focus on partnership for development, integration and industrialisation of Africa. BRICS countries agreed to set up a Development Bank to meet the needs of developing and least development countries in which countries can be beneficiaries. But South Africa is not an accepted leader of the entire continent. Rather the oil rich Nigeria can stake its claim.

It his high time India engage more with resource-rich countries of the African continent bilaterally if possible or through relevant regional sub-groups and precisely assess their development needs and strike a win-win situation.

Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) was launched as early as in 1964 to share India’s development experiences with fellow developing countries. But it was in recent times that India took this programme to Africa in a big way. This civilian training programme aims at skill development and capacity building. Training are imparted to professionals, government officials and others in the areas such as finance, accounts, audits, banking, education, planning and administration, parliamentary studies, crime records, textiles, rural electrification, tool designs, ophthalmologic equipment. There are also general courses relating to rural development, small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurship.

At present over 15,000 African students have been offered scholarships to study in India in various fields in 47 institutes in the country. India also provides technical assistance in military capacity building.

Another form of India’s development assistance is the extension of the line of credit (LoCs). Over the last decade India extended 164 LoCs amounting to $9.2 billion, out of which $5.3 billion was for African countries. The LoCs enable borrowing countries to import goods and services from India undertake projects for infrastructure and capacity building. Benin, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Sudan are some of the recent beneficiaries.

There is a need for India to send missions to these countries to assess and review the working of these projects undertaken and its impact on the people. (IPA)
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