India-Africa: Moving Forward Together

India-Africa: Moving Forward Together
With an aim of taking its relations with African states to new heights, India hosted the 52nd Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank on May 22-26 in Gandhinagar.

The Export-Import (Exim) Bank of India played an active role in organising the event in coordination with the Ministry of Finance. The significance of the meeting was the fact that it was the first time since the establishment of AfDB in 1964 that the Annual Meeting was held in India, which became the fourth non-regional member country to host the event.

The meeting happened close to the heels of China’s Belt and Road Forum Summit held in mid-May. The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor has seen India and Japan attempt to be seen in the league of prime drivers of the Asia-Africa linkages. India joined the African Development Fund in 1982, and became a member of the Bank in 1983.

On the sidelines, India and Japan leaders held dialogues to find ways and means to partner in realising the AAGC, and further strengthen the intercontinental connectivity. The Japan External Trade Organization , Japan International Cooperation Agency and Japan Bank for International Co-operation, in cooperation with their partner organisations in India and Africa, including the AfDB, deliberated on the possibility of promoting African business through PPP between India and Japan.

Marked as the Bank’s flagship annual event, the meeting involved 54 African states and 27 non-regional member countries, including India. The Gandhinagar meeting brought together about 3,000 delegates and participants. The participants included President Macky Sall of Senegal; Patrice Talon of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire’s Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan and Comoros Vice President D A S Hassani. During the meeting, a framework agreement for International Solar Alliance was opened for signature and depositing instruments of ratification.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the meeting, highlighting the importance of Mahatma Gandhi in building bridges between Indian and African peoples. It may be noted here that Mohandas Gandhi turned into “Mahatma” during his anti-colonial struggle against the British Empire in South Africa.

Agriculture and sustainable development issues have been of critical importance to India, the Asian countries as well as African states, which have been struggling with lack of connectivity, poor infrastructure, regional disparity and under-utilisation of resources for lack of enough technology. This, perhaps, was the reason why the theme of this year’s meeting was chosen as “Transforming Agriculture for Wealth Creation in Africa.” Thus, shared history and experience, common aspirations and challenges bind Asia and Africa.

A major achievement of the AfDB meeting was that the members of the Bank mulled over achieving the High 5s Agenda (Energy, Healthcare and Pharma, Agriculture, Industrialisation, e-Governance) to work towards the mission ‘Industrialise Africa’, and make Africa part of the Global and intercontinental Value Chains.

India has been one of the major advocates of South-South cooperation, and has been striving to work with developing countries in Asia and Africa, to facilitate growth and sustainable development. Making agriculture and rural life self-sufficient and profitable could function as the underlying theme for India-Africa cooperation.

India’s cooperation with African states is multi-faceted. That India is one of the major advocates of robust India-Africa cooperation is evident from New Delhi’s hosting of the India-Africa Summit in 2015.

In 2016, Prime Minister Modi visited four African countries. During the 2015 India-Africa Summit, it announced a $10 billion Line of Credit. India-Africa trade has doubled in the last five years, and crossed the $70 billion mark in 2014-15.

India is the fifth largest contributor in Africa over the past several years, amounting to more than $50 billion. In his address to the AfDB delegates, Prime Minister Modi said, “From 1996 to 2016, Africa accounted for nearly one-fifth of Indian overseas direct investments. India is the fifth largest country investing in the continent, with investments over the past 20 years amounting to $54 billion, creating jobs for Africans”

The Indian Technical and Economic Programme is also contributing a lot in changing the socio-economic landscape of the continent. Unlike China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the AAGC is an equitable, transparent and mutually beneficial model of growth and connectivity, and does not violate the sovereignty of any country. As India’s Finance minister Arun Jaitley also stated, the AAGC is on a voluntary basis and is devoid of any conditionality.