Snapshot of Relations


Political Cooperation

    • India and Africa have often held common positions in global platforms and worked together to guard the interests of other developing countries
      • They have moved joint proposals, such as the Agricultural Framework Proposal and Protection of Geographical Indications, at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation, and have worked towards protecting the food and livelihood concerns of farmers at the Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations
      • The ‘Framework for Strategic Cooperation,’ the outcome document of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, also mentions that India and Africa will “enhance cooperation through training and collective negotiations on global trade issues, including at the WTO to protect and promote the legitimate interests of developing countries, especially the LDCs [least developed countries]”
Did you know?
  • The India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) is the official platform for the African-Indian relations
  • It is held once in every three years beginning from 2008
      • Currently, India and South Africa are also currently pressing for a waiver of certain provisions of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines

Economic relation

    • The India-Africa bilateral trade has been growing steadily, year-on-year, with the trade volume touching US$ 55.9 billion in 2020-21.
    • India is the fifth largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments of US$ 54 billion
    • The scale of India’s development cooperation with Africa has also grown rapidly
      • From 2003 onwards, India began to use concessional lines of credit (LoC) as one of its key development partnership instruments to fund the construction of railway lines, electrification and irrigation projects, farm mechanisation projects, among others
      • The LoCs are demand-driven and extended on the principle of mutual benefit — recipient countries make development gains, while the LoCs help create new markets for Indian companies, foster export growth, build good relations with countries that are important sources of food, energy and resources, and contribute to the country’s image abroad.
      • So far, India has sanctioned 182 LoC projects in Africa through the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of India, with a total credit commitment of about US$ 10.5 billion
    • Recently, The AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) was launched
      • AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement in the World since the World Trade Organization was created in the 1990s.
      • When implemented, the AfCFTA is on a mission to increase intra-African trade by 52.3%

Development Cooperation

    • Although India was poor and underdeveloped after two centuries of colonial exploitation, it launched systematic efforts to promote African development soon after its independence
    • The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, launched in 1964 to share India’s lessons in development with other developing countries, continues to remain an important pillar of Indian development cooperation programme.
      • Currently, about 98 Indian institutions run training courses in fields such as agriculture, food and fertiliser, engineering and technology, and environment and climate change
      • In addition to civilian training programmes, ITEC also conducts and oversees defence training programmes, study tours, aid for disaster relief, the deputation of Indian experts abroad and project-based cooperation
      • Africa is a key beneficiary of the programme with nearly 50% of the ITEC slots reserved for countries from the region
    • India-Africa cooperation has also focused on techno-economic capacity building
      • Skill development and capacity building featured prominently in all the India-Africa Forum Summits
    • India has also unveiled the Vision Document of the Asian Africa Growth Corridor which is jointly prepared by Indian and Japanese think tanks
      • The corridor will focus on Developing Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, skill enhancement, and People-to-People Partnership
      • India postulates that its partnership with Africa is an amalgam of development priorities in keeping with the African Union’s long term plan and the Africa Agenda 2063, as well as India’s development objectives

Information Technology

    • This is an important pillar of India’s technical cooperation with Africa, given the role of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in India’s growth story and the importance most African leaders attach to ICT sector development
    • The Pan African e-Network, launched in 2009, was a ground breaking initiative to extend Indian expertise in IT to provide better healthcare and education facilities in 53 African countries
      • India has invested $100 million in the Pan-African E-Network to bridge the digital divide in Africa, leveraging its strengths in information technology
      • The second phase of this programme, e-VidyaBharti and e-ArogyaBharti (e-VBAB), was started in 2018, with an aim to provide free tele-education to 4,000 African students each year for five years and continuing medical education for 1000 African doctors, paramedical staff, and nurses
    • Further, multiple successful digital tech-driven companies have managed to gain a strong foothold in the region as well.
      • Recently, after the Nigerian government banned Twitter, an Indian micro blogging network start-up – Koo – managed to gain significant following and an active user base in that nation


    • India has actively contributed to the efforts to maintain peace and security in Africa through its long involvement in UN peacekeeping efforts
    • In the past India has offered to train African security personnel at the various defence training academies within India and has also been involved in training and infrastructure development in countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritius, Zambia, Ghana, Sudan, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Egypt and Lesotho
    • In the last few years the Indian navy has been undertaking constabulary duties in the Gulf of Aden, where it has successfully escorted over 2,400 vessels
    • It has also pledged support to African Union Mission in Somalia and the African led mission in Mali

Climate Change

    • Nearly half of all member countries in the International Solar Alliance, initiated by India, are from Africa
    • India has announced an LoC worth US$ 2 billion to Africa over five years for the implementation of off-grid solar energy projects and is working to develop solar power systems across the Sahel region to provide electricity to approximately half of the 600 million Africans who are currently off-grid

Cultural Cooperation

    • India’s scholarship programme also grew rapidly.
      • At the third India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015, India pledged to provide 50,000 scholarships to African students over a five-year period and set up institutions of higher learning in Africa.
      • Over 42,000 scholarship slots have already been utilised in the last five years
    • In 2018, India’s Ministry of Human Resource and Development launched the ‘Study in India’ initiative to attract students from neighbouring and African countries

COVID-19 Cooperation

    • During the COVID-19 pandemic, India has provided 270 metric tonnes of food aid (155 metric tonnes of wheat flour, 65 metric tonnes of rice, and 50 metric tonnes of sugar) to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea
    • Also, Under India’s landmark ‘Vaccine Maitri‘ initiative, India gifted 150 metric tonnes of medical supplies to 25 African countries
    • The Indian government also organised an e-ITEC training course for healthcare professionals on COVID-19 prevention and management protocols


No clear Strategy/Vision

    • India’s model of development cooperation in Africa lacks a clear strategy
    • While it is increasingly obvious that the postcolonial rhetoric inherited from the Nehru years has limited relevance in the current global economic context, it remains difficult to pinpoint India’s position in contrast with other major players
    • In the absence of a clear and well-articulated vision for Africa, India’s development cooperation is often compared to the Chinese model of development cooperation in the region
    • The flaws of India in this perspective include:
      • India is not actively pursuing any specific development goals
        • Indian LoCs have not been designed to achieve a larger development goal such as food security, health security, clean energy or education for all
        • LoCs are typically used by recipient countries to fund small development projects such as roads, bridges, railway lines, power transmission and water supply systems
      • Further, there is no synchronisation between different development instruments
        • LoCs, grants and capacity building initiatives operate as standalone instruments of development cooperation, with almost no links with each other
        • As a result, the overall development impact of India’s development cooperation is small and difficult to measure

Africa not prime focus for India

    • While Africa is now the focus of India’s foreign policy, it is not the primary focus, given India’s growing economic and security cooperation with the US, the EU and its Asian neighbours

Competing powers in Africa

    • India is not the only external power engaging Africa, developed countries and other emerging powers like China, Brazil and Russia have also been involved in various activities across the continent
    • To a large extent, African countries have welcomed investment in the much neglected areas such as infrastructure and communications that are vital for raising productivity and reducing poverty.
    • The challenge remains as to how the BRICS countries who have different levels of interaction with African countries will develop a common vision regarding cooperation with Africa

Other issues

    • Despite frequent references to Afro-Asian solidarity between the two nations, instances of violence against African students is common in India
      • There have been numerous cases of violence against African students in India and most African students complain of harassment and discrimination, with many leaving India without finishing their studies


  • India can try to make its cooperation with Africa more impactful in the following ways:
    • Clear strategy for African development
      • Targeting a few important areas like food and health security, climate change adaptation and gender equality will help improve development outcomes and make India’s development cooperation programme more effective
    • Continue the current focus on capacity building
      • Investment in human capital is the key to development in Africa. The current focus on capacity building is in line with Africa’s needs given the continent’s huge youth population that need skills and jobs
    • Harness Indian civil society organisations, NGOs, and Indian diaspora
      • The Indian government should explore greater collaboration with these organisations to implement development projects in Africa at low costs
    • Promote development-friendly private investments
      • Given the emphasis on mutual benefit in its strategy, India’s development cooperation should be aligned to its commercial interests in Africa.
      • Therefore, India should try to support Indian companies making investment in development-friendly projects for mutual benefit
    • Timely completion of projects
      • Efforts must be made to expedite the LoC projects.
      • Lessons should be drawn from other countries that have a much better record in implementation
    • Address concerns about academic experience in India
      • Affordability is not the only consideration for international students who are looking for a wholesome academic experience, which includes living conditions, quality of education, exposure, the institution’s global ranking and cultural experience.
      • Therefore, India must make largescale investments in its own higher education sector to project itself as an education hub for neighbouring countries and Africa
    • Improve the experiences of Africans in India
      • The Indian government should ensure that Africans studying or working in India are safe and enjoy their stay in the country.
      • Efforts should also be made to educate Indians about Africa so that people-to-people connections between India and Africa flourish.
  • It is certain that the guiding principles for India would be to engage in partnerships which are inclusive, people-centric, sustainable, transparent and driven by African needs and priorities
    • With this vision, it is hoped that an enriching partnership model is sustained that would prove beneficial to both partners with gains meant for the common citizens, in the years to come