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Insights into Issues: India Africa Relations



Insights into Issues: India Africa Relations


Importance of Africa:

  • Geostrategic
    • Africa is critical to India’s security, especially the Horn of Africa region, because of its proximity with India. The threat of radicalism, piracy, organized crime emerge from this region
  • Economic
    • Africa can help us in diversifying our energy sources, which is one of the stated objective of our Integrated Energy Policy
    • Africa also contains rich reservoir of valuable minerals, metals including gold and diamond
    • Africa provides a space for Indian investment
    • Africa has ample agricultural land which cab address India’s food security. India is looking at leasing land in Africa to overcome the land deficit that we face in terms of arable land
  • Geopolitical
    • Support of African countries is important for India’s aim of gaining a permanent seat in UNSC
    • Africa provides a space for displaying both India’s soft and hard power
    • India has been actively involved in peace and stability of African countries through UN Peace keeping operations. India is involved in capacity building of African countries. Africa is also the largest beneficiary of India’s ITEC programme

History of India Africa Relations:India Africa Relations

The foundations were laid by Mahatma Gandhi. According to him, there will be a “commerce of ideas and services and not of raw materials and goods like imperialist powers”. The present government continues to take this approach as the foundation of India’s Africa Policy. According to Vice President Hamid Ansari, “ India shares Africa’s dreams and India Africa cooperation is genuine 2 way street partnership”

Relations uptill 1960:

Nehru talked about Afro Asian solidarity. African countries provided strength to Nehru’s NAM. The policy in this phase is described as “ideational” and “pragmatic”

2nd phase (1970s – 1990s):

There was neglect of Africa because of India’s attention on South Asia and India’s attention on inward looking foreign policy. Though India in this phase continued to support Africa against Apartheid.

3rd phase (1990s onwards):

This is the phase of reengagement with Africa. However the lead was taken by private sector, rather than government. Private sector of India should be given credit to push attention of GoI towards the region of strategic and economic importance.

Present status of relations:

Since 2008, India and Africa relations have been institutionalized. India has started engagement with African Union (Pan African Platform). So far 3 summits have been organized under the aegis of India Africa Forum Summit. It is to be noted that the approach of GoI is also influenced by China. China has also initiated the Forum for Africa and China cooperation in the year 2000.

Strategies adopted by Indian government:

  • Pan African level engagement
  • Partnership with regional organization
  • Development partnership through IBSA and BRICS
  • Bilateral engagement with countries
  • Involving Indian communities and Indian Diaspora

Whether India’s relationship with Africa should be seen through Chinese prism?


  • While China has been in Africa’s infrastructure, mining, oil and natural gas sectors for many years, India, despite moving late, has worked through training, education and capacity-building programmes — which have been very well-received by the countries.
  • China is developing series of important ports in Africa on the western and eastern coast right uptill Mediterranean and building rail linkages to connect to those ports
  • Over the last 15 years, India-Africa trade has gone up 20 times, and reached, according to the government, $ 70 billion.
  • Indian investment in Africa is between $ 30 billion and $ 35 billion.
  • India has given concessional credit to the tune of $ 7.4 billion, of which $ 5 billon has been disbursed. The credit lines have helped create 137 projects in 41 countries.
  • A Pan-African e-Network for education and health is functional in 48 countries.
  • Since 2008, India has extended 40,000 scholarships to African countries under ITEC programme


Thus it would be wrong to conclude that India’s African outreach is with a view to counter China’s expanding influencing in the region.  Moreover Chinese strategy of exporting Chinese labour as part of its push to create excess capacity abroad to counter unemployment in China is rattling the African population. There have been protests against the discriminatory employment practices of China in matters of employment in Nigeria, Kenya etc.


Challenges India faces from the presence of countries like U.S in Africa


  • S trade with Africa initially was high because of its strategy to reduce dependence of middle East oil and hence they went for greater purchase from Africa. With shale revolution in USA, trade volume has declined. USA still involved in infrastructural development, export of commodities (food stuff, refined products), export of equipments, projects for Mineral exploration. All these fields are also what India is interested in. Same is the case with china
  • USA along with China has also been offering soft loans which are being lapped up by capital starved African nations


Shortcomings of U.S (and other developed countries) involvement

  • S products are too costly for African customers compared to Indian and Chinese products
  • Export of raw materials to USA unlikely to grow a lot because of relative stagnation of GDP growth rate of U.S economy compared to India and china
  • USA’s involvement in building transport infra etc can lead to increased sale of Indian cars etc which are cheaper
  • Development of African primary industries by these countries can lead to increased exports to India


Shortcomings of India’s involvement in Africa

  • In terms of cheque book diplomacy, India can not compete with China or U.S. Some of the African countries, even the richer ones like Nigeria, expect India to bear gifts for them under IAFS. However India asserts for joint endeavour for better development
  • India abrogates its responsibility in terms of mid stream and down stream delivery processes, instead relying on multilateral agencies like African Union. This leads to India losing credit for a project despite the financial, technological backing it gives
  • India contributed a lot more than other countries in terms of ebola relief but did not highlight it. Indian assistance was largely through multilateral forums and in a piecemeal manner


Impact of IAFS process so far:


  • India has committed unprecedented level of resources to Africa (in soft loans and grants). $5bn in soft loans, half a billion dollars in grants, institution building and training fellowship to Africa
  • Earlier in IAFS 1 India had offered DFQF (Duty Free Quota Free) access to LDCs of Africa
  • Increased people to people contact as observed in the increasing flow of medical tourists, students, trainees and Indian entrepreneurs and experts.
  • IAFS process has also given a boost to cultural and information contact and mutual awareness
  • Growth in India’s trade and investment activities has partially slowed down due to the effects of recession.



SWOT analysis



  • Indian diaspora in Africa to be leveraged for involvement in building social infra
  • Similar socio economic challenges and historical linkages
  • Indian developmental model more in line with Africa’s needs
  • Private sector involvement in Africa. India’s private sector is involved in 2x more Greenfield projects as compared to Chinese counterparts. Another advantage that India has, in any projects it employs local people thereby generating employment, earning goodwill. China exports Chinese labour.



  • Multiple competing interests present. China and USA are the top 2 trading partners
  • Chequebook diplomacy can not be done by India
  • Lack of emphasis on bilateral relationships instead engaging mostly through forums like IAFS



  • Shift from line of credit approach to private sector involvement which would help in providing loans at cheaper interest rate, risk mitigation
  • Better organized, more coherent and faster responding mechanism accompanied by an appropriate media campaign required for highlighting India’s contribution



  • Bureaucratic hurdle in trade expansion as we interact largely with African Union. We have focus on nations individually to take projects forward
  • No efforts by India to curb racial discrimination. Several reports in the past have highlighted that the propensity if Indians to discriminate on grounds of race is quiet high. China has undertaken educational projects to bury the African stereotype


IAFS 3 – Delhi Declaration:

  • The declaration placed development cooperation at the heart of India-Africa partnership, with India unveiling $10 billion in Lines of Credit for a host of development projects over the next five years and pledging a grant assistance of $600 million. This grant includes an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million. It will also include 50,000 scholarships in India over the next five years and support the expansion of thePan Africa E-Network and institutions of skilling, training and learning across Africa.
  • Amid the growing salience of ocean economy, IAFS-III mapped out a blueprint for enhanced cooperation in developing blue economy and to promote what Prime Minister Narendra Modi called “the blue revolution.” Blue Economy aims at sustainable development of marine resources, which will drive growth and prosperity of India, Africa and other littoral states blessed with long coastlines.
  • The third India-Africa Forum Summit saw a striking convergence of positions between India and 54 African countries to address a host of cross-cutting global issues, ranging from the UN Security Council reforms, piracy/maritime security and terrorism to multilateral trade negotiations, climate change and sustainable development.
  • India plans to conduct a new training course at the Centre for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK) in New Delhi and at other Peacekeeping Training Centers in Africa dedicated for Training of Trainers from upcoming Troop Contributing Countries from Africa. They also agreed on jointly promoting greater involvement of the Troop Contributing Countries in the decision-making process.