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Source: The Hindu
Relevance: African region is full of untapped opportunities. China has made a strong base in the region. India can also make use of this opportunity.
The African continent presents an opportunity for enhancing India- Africa ties in the domain of agriculture. India should proactively provide funds and other resources to unleash this potential to contain the rising Chinese influence in the region.
- New Delhi’s engagement with the African continent has been multifaceted. Multiple projects have been implemented under Indian lines of credit and capacity-building initiatives.
- There has been robust cooperation in a range of sectors, amongst which agricultural cooperation holds immense significance.
India- Africa Agriculture partnership:
- India is an importer of fruits, nuts, grains and pulses from the continent.
- India-Africa agricultural cooperation currently includes institutional and individual capacity-building initiatives such as
- India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development in Malawi,
- Extension of soft loans, supply of machinery,
- Acquisition of farmlands and the presence of Indian entrepreneurs in the African agricultural ecosystem.
- Indian farmers have purchased over 6,00,000 hectares of land for commercial farming in Africa.
- The Kerala government is trying to meet its steep requirement for raw cashew nuts by imports from countries in Africa. The state’s production capacity is currently limited to 0.83 lakh tonnes, compared to the requirement of 8 lakh tonnes.
Scope of increasing cooperation in Agriculture:
- The African continent has 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. It employs over 60% of the workforce and accounts for almost 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. This testifies the importance of agriculture in improving India- Africa relations.
- Further, the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement is expected to improve cost competitiveness by removing tariffs.
- There are also proposals to create a jointly-owned brand of Africa-Kollam cashews. Similar ideas could encourage State governments and civil society organisations to identify opportunities and invest directly.
- The transformative power of innovative and disruptive technology has been evident in the African agri-tech sector. The startup ecosystem in the continent enjoyed a 110% growth between 2016 and 2018. This presents an opportunity for Indian industries to tap into African agri-business value chains.
However, China’s influence in the region is a cause of concern for India- Africa relations.
China- Africa relations:
- Today, China is amongst Africa’s largest trading partners. It is also Africa’s single biggest creditor.
- Access to Africa’s natural resources, its untapped markets and support for ‘One China Policy’ are primary drivers of Chinese engagement with Africa. However, there are other factors at play.
- Chinese-built industrial parks and economic zones in Africa are attracting low-cost, labour-intensive manufacturing units that are relocating from China.
- Chinese operations in Africa are important to accumulate global experience in management, risk and capital investments.
- China is willing to overlook short-term profits in order to build ‘brand China’ and push Chinese standards in the host countries.
- While India’s Africa strategy exists independently, it is important to be cognisant of China’s increasing footprint in the region. India should learn from China’s mistakes and try to avoid it. These include:
- Operation in silos by the Chinese and African experts working in ATDCs.
- Existence of a critical gap between skills transferred in China and the ground realities in Africa.
- Large commercial farms are run by Mandarin-speaking managers, and there is a presence of small-scale Chinese farmers in local markets. This has aggravated socio-cultural stress.
- A thorough impact assessment needs to be conducted of the existing capacity-building initiatives in agriculture for India to stand in a strong position.
This could include detailed surveys of participants who have returned to their home countries. Country-specific and localised curriculum can be drawn up, making skill development demand-led.