Also known as the ‘mother continent’, Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent of earth, covering about one-fifth of the total land area of earth. The continent is cut almost equally by the equator, and most of the continent lies in the tropical region. The wealth of Africa lies in mineral resources, including some of the world’s largest reserves of fossil fuels, metallic ores, gems and precious metals. It is matched by a great biological diversity that includes the equatorial rainforests of Central Africa and the wildlife of the eastern and southern regions of the continent.
There are 54 countries in Africa. There are an additional 4 dependencies of which the status of Western Sahara remains disputed.
Africa’s population is the youngest among all the continents. The median of Africa in 2023 is 18.78, while the worldwide median age is 30.5. Despite rich resources and young demography, most of the African nations are still poor and are categorized as either developing or underdeveloped countries. Scholars attribute this poverty to multiple reasons, prime amongst them being climate, tribalism, colonialism, Cold War, neocolonialism, lack of democracy, corruption etc.
While the North Atlantic is history, Asia is present, Africa is suggested to be the future. This is the reason economies like India, China and Japan are more interested in this continent. While this creates areas for cooperation, it also becomes a source of conflict in the foreign policies of these nations.
Evolution of India Africa Relations
Since ancient times, monsoon winds provided connectivity between Africa and the Indian subcontinent. There was a large amount of trade and cultural interaction between India and Africa. Essentially, the genesis of India’s Africa policy is through people-to-people contacts that were happening even before the governments stepped in.
And then of course, there was Mahatma Gandhi, who exemplified the people-to-people cultural connect between India and Africa. Apart from his anti-British struggle in South Africa, his role in India’s national movement bolstered Africa’s own aspirations for equality and independence from colonial rule.
In the immediate post-colonial era, India moved towards Africa through Non Alignment Movement. India actively supported the cause of decolonization and movements against apartheid in African countries. Thus, people-to-people contacts started giving way to G to G connect. In 1958, India set up the Imperial Military Academy in Harar, Ethiopia. The first such capacity-building institution by India in the continent. In 1960, a similar Academy was established in Nigeria.
In 1964, the ITEC programme (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) was started by govt. of India. The programme aimed bilateral assistance to developing countries. Africa was included in ITEC and slowly became its largest user. This also pushed the flow of private students from Africa to India. Although there were scholarships, it played a small role, and a lot of private students started coming to India to study, again emphasising the private and people-to-people connection.
Although African countries had secured independence, the civil problems continued. India responded to the needs of Africa by participating in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) in a big way. The Indian delegation was part of the first PKO in the Congo and continues to participate today. India has been one of the pioneers and one of the major troop contributing countries in bringing peace and stability to Africa.
In 2002, the African Union (AU) was born in Durban. The superpowers were not so interested in the region, Africa was completely free from colonialism and suddenly the continent was open for new partners. From 2002, the intensity of India’s evolution of policy towards Africa also acquired many more dimensions. India responded to African aspirations in a deep and fulsome manner.
Elements of India’s policy post-2002.
The ITEC programme became more intense and open to a larger number of countries and regional economic communities as well as the African Union Commission. The scholarship programmes got expanded. There were many bilateral programmes and India supported the Commonwealth initiative under the SCAAP (Special Commonwealth. Assistance for Africa Programme) programme.
In 2002, the Ministry of Commerce announced its Focus Africa programme, and there was so much enthusiasm that all African countries wanted to be considered for it, rather than the limited number initially targeted.
The IDEAS scheme, under which the lines of credit were announced, became a much deeper and larger scheme in 2003-04 from a budget announcement. Team 9 which was the first time India dealt with a collective of countries in Central and West Africa was also announced in 2000.
The Pan Africa e-network project was announced in 2005 by President Kalam, and this acknowledged the role of the African Union and became the largest project that the African Union undertook at that stage with any partner. It remains the largest grant project that India has done in Africa till date.
In 2008 First India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) was held in New Delhi. It was the first such meeting between the heads of state and government of India and was attended by 14 countries of Africa chosen by the African Union.
The second summit was held at the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, with India and 15 African Countries participating. The leaders discussed significant aspects of the India-Africa partnership with the objective of enhancing and widening its ambit for mutual benefit.
The third summit on a rotation basis was held in New Delhi, India in 2015. It was the largest gathering of African countries on Indian soil. This meeting brought together representatives from all 54 African countries, including 40 Heads of State. The summit also presented the occasion for the African countries to reiterate the special nature of the relationship with India. In the words of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, “Africa has a number of partnership arrangements with other countries of the world, but this promises to be different as it is not only a partnership between friends, but between countries and peoples who have had similar historical experiences of colonial rule.”
The fourth IAFS has been postponed due to the pandemic.
These summits brought a large amount of low-cost finance to Africa, without discrimination. Whereas other partners would lend to investment-grade countries alone, India specialised in lending to the highly indebted poor countries (HIPC) and to the LDCs. This has expanded private sector relationships, brought governments closer together, and has contributed to African development in a fulsome manner.
10 Principles of Kampala 2018
In 2018, while addressing the Parliament of Uganda, Prime Minister Modi identified 10 ideas, which form the basis of India’s Africa policy
- Africa will be at the top of our priorities. We will continue to intensify and deepen our engagement with Africa. As we have shown, it will be sustained and regular.
- Our development partnership will be guided by your priorities. It will be on terms that will be comfortable for you, that will liberate your potential and not constrain your future. We will rely on African talent and skills. We will build as much local capacity and create as many local opportunities as possible.
- We will keep our markets open and make it easier and more attractive to trade with India. We will support our industry to invest in Africa.
- We will harness India’s experience with digital revolution to support Africa’s development; improve delivery of public services; extend education and health; spread digital literacy; expand financial inclusion; and mainstream the marginalised. This will not just be our partnership to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but also to equip the youth of Africa for their place in the digital age.
- Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, but produces just 10 per cent of the global output. We will work with you to improve Africa’s agriculture.
- Our partnership will address the challenges of climate change. We will work with Africa to ensure a just international climate order; to preserve our biodiversity; and, adopt clean and efficient energy sources.
- We will strengthen our cooperation and mutual capabilities in combating terrorism and extremism; keeping our cyberspace safe and secure; and, supporting the UN in advancing and keeping peace;.
- We will work with African nations to keep the oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations. The world needs cooperation and not competition in the eastern shores of Africa and the eastern Indian Ocean. That is why India’s vision of Indian Ocean Security is cooperative and inclusive, rooted in security and growth for all in the region.
- This is especially important to me: as global engagement in Africa increases, we must all work together to ensure that Africa does not once again turn into a theatre of rival ambitions, but becomes a nursery for the aspirations of Africa’s youth.
- Just as India and Africa fought colonial rule together, we will work together for a just, representative and democratic global order that has a voice and a role for one-third of humanity that lives in Africa and India. India’s own quest for reforms in the global institutions is incomplete without an equal place for Africa. That will be a key purpose of our foreign policy
Areas of Involvement with Africa
1] Economics and Trade
As per the latest data from the Ministry of Commerce, India’s trade with Africa was US $98 billion in 2022-23 and $89.6 billion 2021-22, a significant increase from $7 billion in 2001. However, Chinese trade with the continent recently crossed $250 billion mark. And the European Union, the largest trading partner of Africa has around $ 400bn trade with the continent. Thus, given geographical proximity, there is ample scope for India to increase its trade with Africa.
The Indian companies have shown a keen interest in investment in Africa. The sectors include agriculture, minerals and mining sector, drugs and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and energy. The opportunities in Africa are primarily driven by the continent’s emerging middle class, rising consumer demand, and improving business environment.
Agriculture and Allied Sectors: Africa has the potential to become granaries of the world. Prospects for collaboration in this segment remain promising as both regions continue to invest in agricultural development, technology transfer, and market linkages.
Minerals and Mining Sector: While African countries have relied on India’s expertise in mining technology and investment, India has been a significant importer of minerals from Africa. The total trade in the mining and mineral sector between India and Africa since 2001 stands at US$ 43.13 billion, with an export-import proportion of 22.7% and 77.3%, making India a net importer in this sector.
Drugs & Pharmaceuticals: There is a consistent growth in trade in this sector. In the year 2020-21, the trade volume soared to an all-time high of US$ 3.8 billion.
Manufacturing: India is a net importer in this segment, reflecting the demand for African manufactured goods. This creates avenues for African countries to tap into India’s growing market.
Sustainability & Green Energy: Green energy and renewable energy have become central themes in the India-Africa bilateral trade. India, with its robust renewable energy sector, has the capacity to support Africa’s transition to green and sustainable energy sources. India’s leadership of ISA (International Solar Alliance) and the central role of Africa in it are indicative of this partnership.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which came into effect in January 2021, holds immense potential for both India and Africa. India can play a guiding role in the strengthening of AfCFTA. Further, the agreement also presents an opportunity for Indian companies to expand their market reach and diversify their investment portfolios.
2] Energy Security
From 0% in 2000, currently, Africa supplies 26% of India’s crude oil imports. Further, the state-owned Indian companies have invested around $ 8 billion in African oil. There is huge crude oil potential of the region which remains untapped.
In the renewable energy sector, International Solar Alliance (ISA), a multilateral body with Indian leadership can help the green energy transition of the continent. Currently, 33 African countries are members of the ISA, making up most of the alliance. India holds a first-mover advantage to tap Africa’s solar resources through the ISA. The African states have the required resources but no technology. This allows India to create a collaborative platform through the provision of technology, capacity building and employment generation.
In 2020, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India procured the Project Management Consultancy Contract to develop a 500 MW solar park in Mali and Togo, supporting the ISA through private investment. This marked the first step for India towards procuring a seat in the solar setup of Africa. NTPC is further eyeing similar opportunities in other African ISA member countries like Sudan, Mozambique, Gambia, Malawi and many others. Given that only 24% of the Sub-Saharan Africans have access to electricity and the generation capacity of Africa excluding the South is only 28 GW, it becomes crucial for India to step in and seize its place in the sector. With ISA as a major asset, the country will get an edge to ensure the right utilisation of African solar energy.
3] Food security
While Africa has 60% of the world’s arable land. However, it is responsible only for 10% of global agricultural output. Thus, with active investment from India in African agriculture there is huge potential of production. This can solve the twin problems of food security and economic development for many African countries.
Currently, African countries like Mozambique, Malawi, and Sudan, are growing pulses for export to India. India is the largest producer, consumer and importer of pulses. Foreseeing gaps in India’s own ability to supply enough tur and urad, the current Government has signed MOUs with Mozambique and Malawi in 2021 for the import of pulses.
Thus, cooperation in the agriculture and food sector has the potential to prove win-win for the regions and also contributes largely to the present relations.
4] Maritime Security
A secure maritime environment in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is crucial for both India and Africa. This includes safeguarding their interests in their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) as well as protecting trade and shipping routes (sea lines of communication – SLOC).
38 of the 54 African countries are either coastal or island nations. Unfortunately, most African countries lack the capacity to ensure the security of their declared maritime zones. Thus, there is vast illegal capture and exploitation of the continent’s marine resources. There are also high incidences of piracy off the East African coast in the Gulf of Aden and in the Niger Delta Region and Gulf of Guinea in West Africa.
India’s approach to maritime cooperation with Africa revolves around its security concerns in African waters. We can highlight four principal avenues where the cooperation is most visible.
- Training of African naval personnel, defence officers, and civilian personnel engaged in maritime administration in Indian institutes
- Conducting Hydrographic Surveys and helping African littoral nations develop basic capabilities in hydrography
- Conducting anti-piracy patrols
- African port visits by the Indian navy and development of monitoring stations
Through bilateral as well as multilateral engagements such as IORA and SAGAR, India seeks to achieve these objectives.
Djibouti is strategically located at the entrance of the Red Sea. India has cultivated close relations with Djibouti, and its ports are used by Indian naval ships transiting to and from the Mediterranean Sea. The country was also crucial in ‘Operation Raahat’ in April 2015, during which Indian warships rescued over 3,000 stranded citizens from war-torn Yemen.
Mauritius – As early as since 2003, India has contributed to the maritime security of Mauritius. Indian Navy regularly patrols the Mauritian EEZ and also deputes a naval officer to manage the National Coast Guard of Mauritius. Apart from these, India gifted an Offshore Patrol Vehicle in 2015, and has helped Mauritius in installing an Automated Identification System and a Coastal Surveillance Radar System, besides carrying out joint hydrographic surveys and patrols with the Mauritian coast guard. India has also signed a deal with Mauritius to develop facilities in Agalega Island. India has also extended several grants and lines of credits to the island nation for developmental and maritime infrastructure projects.
Seychelles – Owing to its strategic location close to the global lanes of shipping and communication, Seychelles is of immense importance to India. In June 2018, during the visit of Seychelles President Danny Faure to India, India handed over a Dornier Do-228 aircraft and $100mn line of credit to augment the island nation’s defence capability. Both PM Modi and President Faure agreed to work on the stalled Assumption island project, although it still needs to be ratified by the Seychelles parliament.
Apart from these, India is actively involved in bilateral engagement with Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar to ensure maritime security and to secure the interests of India as well as African nations.
During the colonial era, Indian labour was brought to Africa to work in colonial infrastructure projects and commercial ventures. While it led to a greater cultural inter-penetration, it also created a modern Indian Diaspora in Africa. At the same time, shared experiences of oppression generated a common desire for freedom and independence.
The most recent estimates put the no. of Indian diaspora in Africa at around 3 million, spread over 46 countries. Prominent amongst them, South Africa has around 1.3 million people of Indian origin, while 0.8 million in Mauritius (70% of its total population) is Indian diaspora.
Indian diaspora has an understanding of both societies and a creditable record of navigating challenges. The Indian diaspora plays an important role in the relations of the regions by promoting investment, trade, innovation, access to technology and financial inclusion. Further, the Indian diaspora particularly becomes important in India’s African diplomacy since the Chinese diaspora is totally absent in the continent, giving India a competitive advantage.
Please refer to the separate article on ITEC. You can accordingly write similar points for Africa.
Recent Developments in India Africa Relations
The structured Chinese engagement in Africa started with the formation of FOCAC (Forum for China-Africa Cooperation). The Chinese focus in Africa is on infrastructure development, extending huge and often unsustainable loans, and in the process, extracting maximum benefit from the natural resources of Africa. With China-Africa trade crossing the $250 billion mark, it is second only to Europe in bilateral trade with Africa. With Africa forming a part of the Chinese OBOR initiative, it has made several infrastructure developments in the region. It has loan commitments worth $160 with Africa and has multiple strategic investments in the continent, including a naval base in Djibouti.
Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)
While India is expert at skill building, the Japanese are expert in quality infrastructure. The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, a joint initiative of India and Japan in Africa, aims at creating sustainable quality infrastructure that will be demand-driven. This also involves the development of port infrastructure. Currently, there is concern regarding funding for AAGC, and the AfDB (African Development Bank) can prove highly useful in this.
The four pillars of AAGC are:
- Skill and Capacity building.
- Quality infrastructure and institutional capacity.
- Development and cooperation projects.
- People-to-people relations and partnerships.
Overall, India has undertaken 12 peacekeeping missions in the continent. Currently, approximately 5,000 Indian personnel serve in five peacekeeping Missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
India provided 150 tonnes of medical assistance to 32 African countries during the pandemic. Many of the African countries utilized ‘Made in India’ vaccines. Independent of that, India continues to provide medicines, medical equipment, ambulances and cancer treatment machines to African hospitals. Further, at international forums, India Africa joined forces to urge equitable and affordable access to vaccines, including through a TRIPS waiver.
Perspectives of Scholars on India Africa Relations
Shyam Saran former Indian ambassador suggests it is important that India does not play a game of catch-up with China. Rather it is more important to leverage India’s unique strengths, such as contribution to capacity building, promotion of entrepreneurship, SMEs and digital connectivity. India has a high reputation in Africa while China is being seen increasingly as a selfish and extractive power. Let us not traverse the Chinese path in Africa.
As suggested by Shashi Tharoor, African countries admire China but they want to be like India.
Rajiv Bhatia, Ex Diplomat, suggests that people-to-people links should be increased with Africa. Although there is a huge diaspora in the region, its potential has not been utilized fully. India has promised multiple projects, but their implementation remains important.
According to Prof. Sreeram Chauliam, India cannot be clubbed in the same category as China. i.e. as a mineral-grabber that is out to plunder Africa and denude it of its vast natural wealth. The message sent out by the PM’s 10 principles of Kampala is clear, “we are not here to exploit” and “we want to be partners in development.”
Although China is trumpeting its South-South cooperation model as a resounding success in Africa. But the absence of a human resource component, a transparency element, and a social sector or democracy angle in that model means that India has an indispensable place on the continent. Chinese model doesn’t create much employment since it brings Chinese companies and Chinese labour. Done at heavy expensive loans and thus unsustainable in the long run.
Rani D Mullen in her article Refocusing on Africa, suggests that behind the Media blitz and official rhetoric, India’s Africa policy is reflecting constraints in its effective implementation. It is not so easy to divert African countries from China’s orbit. Our strategy is becoming clearer but the efficacy of the tools for implementation remains questionable. India has yet to convince that it not only commits but also delivers. The disbursement of developmental aid is extremely slow.
According to C Rajamohan in his Article The Great Game in Africa, “PM Modi has been successful in bringing Africa on the mental map at least. However, to meet the scale of China, we need to be very proactive. Also China is not the only competitor.”
Up till now, South East Asia has been central and Africa has been neglected. He further suggests India focus on the island nations, especially Mozambique Channel i.e Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles.
Veda Vaidyanathan remarks that India’s Africa policy oscillated between passive and reluctantly reactive.
Mahesh Sachdev, in his article Fortifying Africa Outreach, suggests that “India is also a developing country with resource constraints. India should not be a cash cow. India should put conditionalities on developmental assistance. India needs more connect between developmental aid and economic engagement.”
Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar sees Africa from a long-term, strategic perspective. In his words, “for India, the rise of Africa is key to global rebalancing.”
“Today we want to see Africa grow. We want to see African economies grow. And our approach to Africa today is to trade more with Africa, invest in Africa, work with Africa, to create capacities in Africa, so that the rise of Africa also takes place as countries like India are rising in Asia.”
“We are not here as an extractive economy. We are not here in the manner in which a lot of other countries are there for very narrow economic objectives. For us, this is a broader, deeper partnership,”
“India and Africa can come together in the building of reliable and resilient supply chains. They are important hubs in the decentralized globalization that is so needed by the international community. When it comes to technology, an emphasis on trust and transparency makes us natural partners. India’s own vision of cooperation with Africa will increasingly centre around health, digital and green growth. And this is so because we believe that these are Africa’s priorities as well. We envisage our African partners as critical to two important international initiatives spearheaded by India: the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.”
“When it comes to political issues, we share the frustration of international organizations being unrepresentative of contemporary reality. That this has made them increasingly ineffective is of little consolation. India believes that Africa must have an adequate presence and voice in global decision-making, including in the reformed UN Security Council. And in turn, we count on Africa to stand up for a partner with whom it has a past, a present and a future. When it comes to the critical issues of our times – climate justice, SDGs achievement or combating terrorism– our multilateral partnership will continue unabated. India believes that Africa’s growth and progress is intrinsic to global rebalancing. Its enormous demographic dividend must be realized. Indeed, it is only when this continent attains its true potential that the world will really become multipolar.”
Concerns of Indian Businessmen in Africa
Apart from the views of scholars, the following are the concerns raised by Indian Businessmen in Africa in a recent conference organized by the Indian High Commission and embassies of 11 African countries.
- Improving Line of Credit System.
- Setting up of banks.
- Liberlize the VISA system to increase trade and investment.
- Direct flights between India and Africa.
- Exploring the possibility of rupee trade to overcome shortage of dollars.
- Creation of a common database of buyer-suppliers.
- Developing robust trade dispute settlement mechanisms.
- Establishing country chapters of FICCI or CII in Africa.
Previous Year Questions
- Identify the drivers of India’s new interest in Africa. [2021/15m/200w/8c]
- How do the guiding principles of India Africa relations seek to enhance harmony and mutual cooperation between India and Africa? [2020/20m/250w/6a]
- How is India pursuing her foreign policy objectives through the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Dialogue Forum? [2019/10m/150w/5c]
- India’s capacity building programs under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) has earned much Goodwill for it in Africa. Discuss. [2018/15m/200w/6b]
- India Research and Information System (RIS) for developing countries is a major initiative in the area of South-South Cooperation. Discuss. [2018/15m/200w/6c]
- Suggest measures so that India’s partnership with Africa becomes a true symbol of South-South Cooperation, delivering clear cut economic and political divisions to both sides of the equation. [2017/20m/250w/6a]
- Identify India’s contributions and assistance in the process of nation-building in South Africa. [2009/20m/200w/5c]
- Give a critical account of India’s role in the affairs of the Third World countries. [2006/60m/8]
- Give an analysis of India’s Africa policy. [1997/60m/8]