India is among the African continent’s oldest and most consistent development partners, and the country has gained tremendous goodwill in the region. Unlike many Western countries that carry the baggage of colonialism or China, which has been severely criticized for its debt-trap diplomacy, disregard for local laws and lack of local employment creation in Africa, India enjoys good ties with the African states. The coming decade presents massive development challenges for India and Africa. Despite being a developing country with huge domestic challenges, India has played an important role in building African capacity, with several notable ongoing initiatives. Additionally, the values that steer India’s development cooperation — demand driven, conditionality free and based on the principle of partnership among equals — are appreciated in Africa.
1.Through its long-established and well-integrated diaspora
India can seek greater engagement with Africa. At least three million people of Indian descent live in Africa, with more than 1.3 million in South Africa alone. East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania also have large Indian diaspora. This gives India an advantage and will enable it to forge its own path in Africa despite the presence of the United States, China and the European Union. India can make greater use of its diaspora in Africa as both a facilitator of goodwill and as an entry point for engagement. Furthermore, the Indian diaspora is more assimilated than China’s (Africa’s largest trade partner), mainly because Chinese emigration to Africa is a more recent development.
2. Education is a very important avenue
Many Western countries have for decades used education as a strategy to engage African countries and future elites – benefiting immensely in the process. India has wisely adopted a similar strategy with its e-Vidya Bharati and the e-Aarogya Bharati initiatives with the objective of awarding 15,000 scholarships to African students from 2019 through to 2024. Educating promising students, India could have the goodwill and the ear of future African elites.
3.Emerging avenue for India-Africa cooperation is the ambitious India-Japan-Africa Growth Corridor (IJAGC)
A developmental project which aims to achieve closer developmental cooperation with Africa. The proposed IJAGC project is a joint Indo Japanese effort aimed at building infrastructure in Africa and is a ‘maritime corridor, built on (pre) existing routes with India, combining Indian soft power in Africa with Japanese financial backing. The IJAGC represents India’s largest undertaking in Africa and is a bold effort in counteracting China’s dominance of continent – and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which stretches to Africa
4. While India pursues global leadership ambitions – and given its renewed commitment to Africa
It can speak on behalf of the continent and countries in the Global South. A rising and increasingly influential India can help enable greater African agency while pursuing its own interests concurrently.
5.India and Africa could also collaborate in other avenues such as “medical services, agriculture and digital technologies
To narrow inequality and empower more people with online education” and “address sustainable development that both regions needed in a mutually beneficial way”. With their already well established strategic and cultural ties and commonalities, India and Africa can realise great untapped potential for trade and investment.