Africa rising with India - a partnership of equals?

BY: Ransford Tetteh

Call it a jamboree, sound bite, talk shop or a gathering to expand the frontiers of partnership between India and Africa and such a commentator will not be far from what transpired at the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi last Thursday.

The meeting was full of colour and glitz by the culture exposition that heralded the opening ceremony, there was a lot of  talk during the various events leading to the Summit where each of the 51 heads of state and government or their representatives was given five minutes to deliver a speech.

 

The Heads of State were given a special welcome by well-decorated mounted squadron. Whereas in most countries, the mounted squadron is done by horses, in the case of India, it was done by donkeys.

This was after the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Shri Narendra Modi, had delivered a powerful speech enumerating the reasons for the enhancement of the partnership between India and Africa.

In line with the new slogan “Africa Rising’, almost all the powers, including those from the BRICS coalition are turning their eyes to the resources of Africa.

This time round, they do not seek to colonise the continent but are looking for partnerships with the African countries and that is why countries such as Japan, China, Turkey, Brazil and India engage African governments regularly to seek new ways of collaboration including bridging the trade gap which is woefully in favour of the better developed countries.

With each of these partners having the same number of people with similar demography of young people who are the future leaders, there is urgent need for the partnership to reshape the destinies of Africa and India.

India and Africa each have a population of 1.25 billion and the liberation struggle in Africa took place at the same time India too was fighting against colonial rule.

Another imperative for the partnership is that the players of the initiative call themselves developing countries seeking a new world economic order and reforms in global governance.

It is for this reason that India and Africa are seeking representation at the UN Security Council although Mr Modi said it was unfair to deny India with about a fifth of the world's population a seat at the UN Security Council.

The logo of the summit that fused Africa and India virtually looking alike with equal size had the slogan, "Reinvigorated Partnership - Shared Vision" which informed the theme for the gathering in New Delhi from October 26-29, 2015. The theme was "Partners in Progress: Towards a Dynamic and Transformative Development Agenda."

At the end of the summit, the leaders came out with two documents; the India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation and the Delhi Declaration 2015 which outlined the strategic thrust of the partnership until the next summit in 2020.

At the end of the summit, the Indian government announced a ten billion dollar support for Africa that was greeted with critical comments and popular acclamation.

 What analysts say

Some analysts think the support was inadequate looking at the number of African countries and that Africa is not a monolithic society.

But others also say that India is doing its best to build the partnership with an earlier 7.5 billion dollar support while also providing 600 million dollars for education and health among other sectors.

The 34 point Declaration said among other issues that the summit recognised the connection between Africa's Agenda 2063 with its First Ten Year Implementation Plan and the focused priorities being pursued by the government of India which should help towards working to build peace and prosperity for our people's through poverty eradication, provision of healthcare, education, employment, access to modern energy services, infrastructure, connectivity between resources and markets.

"We note that the space technologies are instrumental in enabling long-term development plans as well as managing short term emergencies; and that digital information and communication technologies are rapidly transforming our world. Connectivity and access to these technologies that permeate all sectors of the economy, including education, health care, manufacturing, trading, financial services; and the society is greatly empowering for people's.

"That the Duty Free Tariff  Preference Scheme offered by India would play a significant role in increasing trade between Africa and India and underline the need to create a conducive environment for the extension of the scheme to all African  countries.

"Improving the productivity of agriculture with a sustainable and judicious use of inputs is vital to ensure food and nutritional security which represents a significant challenge and opportunity for all of us. In this regard, we appreciate Africa's continental projects such as the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program(CAADP)," the declaration said.

 More pledges

The leaders also agreed to "continue to work together in promoting investment exchanges and encourage the establishment of direct trade relations through opening of new markets and raising the level of trade relations between the two sides in order to contribute to sustainable growth and economic development.

"Cooperate and coordinate in the field of women empowerment, enhancing women's economic, social and legal status, providing women with job opportunities and better chances to participate in the economic, social and political spheres and continue joint efforts aimed at eradicating discrimination against women," the declaration stated.

The declaration called for support for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) aimed at integrating Africa's markets in line with the objectives and principles enunciated in the Abuja Treaty, establishing the African Economic Community(AEC) and its resolve to support the work of the Continental Free Trade Area-Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) towards concluding the negotiations by 2017.

The leaders also touched on the new phenomenon of Blue/Ocean Economy and pledged in the declaration to "promote cooperation in the Blue/Ocean Economy, towards the sustainable development of marine resources, place special emphasis on closer collaboration in developing sustainable fisheries, combating illegal and unregulated fishing, managing the marine resources, exploring non-marine resources, conducting hydrography surveys, promoting eco-tourism, developing renewable energy, disaster risk reduction through modern early warning tools, pollution control and other coastal and ocean studies."

Uganda's President, Yoweri Musevi stirred a controversy at the summit when he challenged the Indian government to do more for Africans saying Indian businessmen and women came to Africa in "rags" and became rich people in no time harnessing the rich potentials of Africa.

 Conclusion

The 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit is now history but the question is "does it have any lessons for Africa's development."

There are useful lessons from India provided African leaders are ready to recreate their environment using their resources. India has not been bogged down by the challenges of development but they have accepted their circumstances and deployed the human and material resources to cater for the needs of the large population.

India does not measure up to the economy of the developed countries but it is a "developed economy"  in its right trying to mobilise other developing countries to rise up and fight poverty, disease and under-development. — GB