India-Africa Connect: Reflections on Africa Day

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India-Africa Connect: Reflections on Africa Day

Thursday, 25 May 2023 | Dr. Neha Sinha | Ranchi

India-Africa Connect: Reflections on Africa Day

Africa Day, commemorated every year on 25th May advocates Africa’s dignity and contributions towards human civilisation. This day is to pay tribute to the founding fathers of Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union (AU). Celebrated widely across the African continent, the day also honours heroes who died in the struggle to liberate their countries from colonial rule.

Today, India and Africa share a warm and cordial relationship, and the partnership dates back several centuries. Africa Day is a good time to reflect on the expanding relationship between India and Africa.

While the future of the India-Africa economic partnership is driven by the private sector, the initiatives taken by the Indian government cannot be ignored. There are several initiatives taken to deepen and strengthen India-Africa partnership. India and Africa’s historical links have experienced a revival in recent years, and there are strong reasons for optimism that the partnership could be mutually beneficial.

In recent years, Modi’s government has made moves that indicate India’s intention of  becoming Africa’s biggest partner. In fact, today. India is one of the most significant partners of Africa, and has a strategy with clear guiding principles focusing on growing trade and investment portfolio. The private sector is key to this strategy, particularly in the areas of skill and capacity-building initiatives, health care, agriculture, and the digital revolution. Moreover, underpinning the seriousness of India’s Africa policy shift, the country has made maritime security a key pillar in most of its engagement with African nations.

India and Africa have traditionally shared excellent relations both at the individual country level and at the Pan-African level. Historical, political and trade ties are underpinned by the shared anti-colonial struggle in the 20th century. Modi enunciated ten guiding principles for India’s engagement with Africa, during his address to the Ugandan Parliament in July 2018, and these form the bedrock for further strengthening and energising the relations between India and Africa going into 2023. The vision is to dovetail India’s growth story with Africa’s Agenda 2063, to spur mutual resurgence.

While taking forward the multifaceted engagement on the basis of PM Modi’s ten guiding principles, the maximum focus needs to be on empowering and skilling youth both in India and Africa. India’s development partnership with Africa would, as always, be guided by Africa’s priorities, on terms comfortable to them with a view to not constrain the partner country in any way and contribute to creating local opportunities and building local capacities among the young people, in each African country. It is the opportune time to unleash the untapped potential of the Africa-India partnership and for jointly leveraging opportunities to collaborate in all areas including Health, green and sustainable development, Education including skilling, IT, Agriculture, Digital economy including emerging technologies like AI, AR, Blockchain, etc. As emphasised by Modi, the “partnership will build instruments of empowerment in Africa. Two-thirds of India and two-thirds of Africa are under the age of 35 years and if the future belongs to the youth, this century is ours to shape and build”.

The India-Africa Forum Summits that have been held so far in 2008, 2011 & 2015 have been an important platform to deepen the relationship between the two. Post Covid, India and Africa, besides focusing on rebuilding economies and businesses, both are working on augmenting health care infrastructure, and ramping up collaborations in joint R&D to deal with future health threats. More Indian pharmaceutical companies need to be encouraged to set up manufacturing facilities in Africa to be able to meet the medicinal needs of all African countries. Training of health care workers especially for handling pandemics like Covid-19, and preparing paramedical staff are the need of the hour in the coming year.

Our relationship with Africa, thus goes beyond strategic reach and economic interest. It is more to do with the emotional connection that we share and solidarity that we feel for each other. On this day, it’s an affirmation to the continent that India has shifted its gears of engagement with Africa, and both will together fight against all odds. Given the convergence of interests, 2023 is an important year to transform ties into a mutually beneficial relationship.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University, Delhi. The views expressed are her own.

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