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Africa is considered a foreign policy priority by India. The Indian government has designed a forward-looking strategy to deepen India-Africa relations further. Even during the COVID-19 times, India took new initiatives to assist Africa through prompt dispatch of medicines and later vaccines.
The quantum of India-Africa trade
- According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, in 2020-21, India’s exports to and imports from Africa stood, respectively, at $27.7 billion and $28.2 billion.
- India’s top five markets today are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Togo. The countries from which India imports the most are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Angola and Guinea.
- India’s top three exports to Africa are mineral fuels and oils (processed petroleum products), pharmaceutical products and vehicles.
- Mineral fuels and oils, (essentially crude oil) and pearls, precious or semi-precious stones are the top imports accounting for over 77% of our imports from Africa.
India’s other engagements with African nations
Apart from India-Africa trade relations, India also engages in,
- Peacekeeping missions in Africa,
- Lending support to African nations in counter-terrorism operations,
- Contributing to African institutions through training and capacity-enhancing assistance.
- Further, India also established communication with Africa at a political level.
- India also provides aid for economic development in the African continent
What are the latest Challenges in India-Africa relations?
- The impact of COVID-19 in Africa: The latest economic data confirms India’s exports and imports have reduced 4.4% and 25% respectively in 2020-21 compared to the previous year.
- The third scramble: A recent study, Engagement of External Powers in Africa; Takeaways for India showed, Africa experienced a sharpened international competition. This is known as ‘the third scramble’.
- A dozen nations from America, Europe and Asia have come forward to assist Africa in resolving the continent’s political and social challenges. In return, they got benefits from Africa’s markets, minerals, hydrocarbons and oceanic resources, and thereby an opportunity to expand their geopolitical influence.
- It created competition and contestation involving traditional and new players, especially the United States, the European Union (EU), China, Japan and India.
- The increased presence of China: China has successfully used the pandemic to expand its footprint by increasing the outflow of its vaccines. Unfortunately, India’s ‘vaccine diplomacy’ faced challenges like COVID-19 second wave, shortage of vaccine raw materials from the U.S., etc.
- Geopolitical tensions in Asia and the imperative to consolidate its position in the Indo-Pacific region have compelled India to deviate from India-Africa relations. Instead, India concentrated on its ties with the United Kingdom, the EU, and the Quad powers, particularly the U.S.
- Pending summits: The third India-Africa Forum Summit was held in 2015. The fourth summit, pending since last year. The summit is not even pushed in a virtual format.
Suggestions to improve India-Africa relations
- More engagement between India and Africa: For mutual benefit, Africa and India should remain optimally engaged. For instance, conducting the fourth India-Africa Forum Summit, Allocating fresh financial resources for grants and concessional loans to Africa, etc.
- The promotion of economic relations demands a higher priority. India needs to impart 21st-century complexion (the third scramble and global competition) into India’s African policy.
- Tackling China in Africa: Increased cooperation between India and its international allies is key to tackle China, both in Asia and elsewhere. For instance, the recent India-EU Summit has identified Africa as a region where a partnership-based approach will be followed. This will limit Chinese plans in Africa.
Source: The Hindu