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Modi Unlocks Credit, Turns On Charm for Africa: Will It Work?

Ties between India and Africa witnessed momentous progress with the Third India-Africa Forum Summit.

Updated
India
4 min read
Modi Unlocks Credit, Turns On Charm for Africa: Will It Work?

Ties between India and Africa witnessed momentous progress with the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi on 29 October 2015.

All efforts and energy invested by India paid off handsomely when all 54 countries of Africa, and the President of African Union showed up for the Summit. Both in terms of logistics and protocol (except for the snafu of delay in banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan due to over-stretching of the valedictory session), as well as substantive discussions and Agreements, the Summit fully justified the ambition and vision underlining the impressive gathering. With 41 Heads of State/ Government in attendance and other countries being represented by senior ministers, the gathering far outstripped the earlier largest congregation of world leaders in India. It also modestly improved upon China’s performance in 2006 in its own version known as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

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Prime Minister Modi meets delegates of African countries at the India-Africa Trade Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

India’s Added Financial Assistance to Africa

PM Modi announced concessional credit of $10 billion in addition to the ongoing financial assistance of $7.4 billion that was extended during the last two summits. This low-cost loan is in addition to a grant of $600 million, out of which $100 million would be in nature of India-Africa Development Fund for infrastructure creation, and $10 million as India-Africa Health Fund. The grant would include 50,000 scholarships over next 5 years to be awarded to African students and professionals. The grant will support expansion of the Pan Africa E-Network and institutions of skilling, training and learning across Africa.

The $10 billion pledge till 2020 is more than the concessional finance and grant committed by India over last two summits, highlighting the government’s determination to pivot the India-Africa partnership on a higher footing, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

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Minister of state (independent charge) for commerce and industry, Nirmala Sitharaman, addresses the India-Africa Trade Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

Both PM Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in their bilateral interactions, as well as public pronouncements, gave prominence to reform of international bodies, particularly permanent membership of Africa and India in the United Nations Security Council. It appears unlikely that India will be able to achieve its objective during the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It would hence not seem very judicious to expend so much political capital in chasing this illusory goal, notwithstanding that we have been able to get a written Text to serve as a basis for negotiations at the current session of the UN. Several African leaders agreed that the UN ran the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjusted to the changing world.

It was announced that such summits in future will take place every 5 years, marking a departure from the past of 3 year interregnum between two conclaves.

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Snapshot

The Third India-Africa Forum Summit: Highlights

  • PM Modi announced concessional credit of $10 billion in addition to the ongoing financial assistance of $7.4 billion.
  • Several African leaders agreed that UN ran the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjusted to the changing world.
  • India and Africa share a sizeable maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Agreements were reached in crucial areas of capacity development.
  • PM Modi strongly proposed cooperation on climate change.
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New Resolutions Involving Security and Defence

India and Africa share a sizeable maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean Region. India conveyed its resolve to deepen cooperation in maritime security and hydrography, as well as counter-terrorism and extremism, and anti-piracy operations. A big take away was convergence to collaborate in the area of security and defence, including intelligence sharing and training of personnel. Terrorist outfits like Boko Haram (which have now started spreading their tentacles from Nigeria to neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger, and Cameroon), Al Shabab, along with the Islamic State (IS), pose potent threats to security of regimes and peoples in many countries in Africa.

PM Modi batted for a quick decision on the pending UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and sought support of African nations in this endeavour.

Agreements were reached in crucial areas of capacity development, agriculture, rural development, promotion of education and healthcare, strengthening security and defence cooperation, training in defence operations, blue economy, trade and investment, institution building etc.

The trade meeting between ministers of India and Africa. (Photo: PTI)
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Third India-Africa Forum Summit: A Huge Impetus for India and Africa

PM Modi candidly accepted that slippages have occurred in implementation of projects that were promised during the last two summits. India tends to promise much, but delivery is not commensurate. For instance, in the Second Summit India had promised to set up 100 training institutes. Out of these only 40 have been completed so far. The rest are in different stages of execution. Of course building and creating an institution can be a long drawn out exercise. Many obstacles and bottle-necks occur at the African end. Several African countries lack adequate infrastructure, including paucity of well-developed banking networks. Also, the decision-making process in Africa is multi-layered. It was decided to establish a monitoring mechanism to keep ongoing projects under review and ensure that no undue delays occur in their implementation.

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PM Modi strongly proposed cooperation on climate change as neither India nor Africa have contributed to global warming. He suggested a common forum of “solar-rich” countries that he would convene at COP21 UNFCC conference in Paris on 30 November this year.

India and Africa are united by common goals of peace, progress and prosperity. The Third India-Africa Forum Summit has provided a huge impetus to a rising India and a resurgent Africa to realise the full potential of their partnership.

(Ashok Sajjanhar is Secretary, National Foundation for Communal Harmony. He is also a former Indian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia.)

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