India and Africa, which together account for over half of the world's humanity, have an age-old special relationship that is in the process of being given a new thrust by closer collaboration in all-important areas of technology, trade and training.
This is in fact the new triumvirate that underpins the architecture of India-Africa relationship and has given a new resonance to South-South cooperation.
The synergies between the two sides are mutually reinforcing. Africa is the emerging market for Indian products and enterprise and an alternative source of energy security for India. And for Africa, India is a shining example how democracy and development can
There is a new mood of buoyancy and optimism as modern India seeks to collaborate with a resurgent Africa to create a new world order. Ideology, redolent of an earlier era of a shared struggle against colonialism and imperialism, has been tempered with pragmatism
and a sober realization of new challenges facing both India and Africa as they get ready to take their place under the global sun.
The result is a reinvention and rejuvenation of an old relationship in which technology – reliable and affordable – is going to play an increasingly important role. And nowhere was this new trend better reflected and epitomized than in the ambitious Pan-African
Network that seeks to electronically connect 53 countries of the African Union, which was launched in October this year.
The brainchild of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the PAN, which seeks to provide benefits of telemedicine and tele-education to 53 African countries, is expected to revolutionize communication through Africa and further replenish a huge reservoir of mutual goodwill
that exists on both sides.
This is not to discount the importance of a rich shared past of high principles and idealism when the India-Africa solidarity was forged and cemented by a belief in the ideals of the non-aligned movement. But the world of today is radically different from
the time when most of African countries were still reeling under the yoke of colonial domination and requires a refocusing of energies and efforts to meet emerging opportunities.
The result is a series of Indian initiatives to enhance economic and political cooperation with Africa. India has announced a Line of Credit of $ 200 million to assist the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Many developmental projects in Senegal,
Mali, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo worth over $ 80 million have already been approved under this programme. Besides, the development of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) will help in creating the culture of good governance in African countries.
India has written off the debt owed by the African countries under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) Paris Initiative and restructured the commercial debts.
The Indian government has also allotted a $ 500 million line of credit for TEAM-9, a new initiative between India and a group of Francophone countries of West Africa- Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivore, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal.
This programme, launched in March 2004, has set up a mechanism for cooperation to take up bilateral as well as sub-regional projects and become so successful that at least six more countries are interested in joining it. Projects worth $ 280 million covering
these West African countries have already been approved against concessional lines of credit.
Most importantly, training and empowerment of human resource continues to remain India's enduring contribution to Africa. More than 1,000 officials from sub-Saharan Africa receive training annually in India under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation
Programme (ITEC). India has in fact spent more than $ 1 billion on such assistance, including training, deputation of experts and implementation of projects in African countries.
Over 15,000 African students study in India, and Indian engineers, doctors, accountants and teachers are present everywhere in several African countries.
India has been quick to respond to humanitarian emergencies in African countries and been generous with its help. The Ministry of External Affairs runs an Aid to Africa programme that provides resources for these projects.
India one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping in Africa, currently has 3,500 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a sizeable contingent in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Partnering the development process in Africa is in fact the guiding credo for India's sustained engagement with Africa.
India is actively engaged in the three crucial sectors of growth in Africa-telecommunications, IT and development of transport infrastructure –and is looking forward to collaborate in new areas of cooperation like biotechnology and space technology.
In 2005, India became the first Asian country to become the full-member of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) as it pledged $ 1 million to the ACBF mission to build capacity for sustainable development and poverty alleviation in Africa.
The new contours of an old time-tested relationship are most visible in the vibrancy of burgeoning trade and commercial ties between the two sides.
The enthusiastic response to the "India-Africa Project Partnership 2005: Expanding Horizons” (Nov 6-8) held in New Delhi underscored huge potential for further expansion of business and trade relations between the two sides.
The conclave, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and EXIM Bank, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, was attended by 160 delegates from 32 African Countries and led to over 600 one-to-one
meetings between them and Indian entrepreneurs. Over 70 projects, estimated to be above $ 5 billion, were discussed at the conclave.
The first conclave of this nature and scale was organised earlier this year (March 2-4) to develop a model for promoting partnership between the government and the private sector for enhancing India's participation in the development priorities of African countries.
The March conclave was also a big draw, leading to advance information on 178 projects valued at $ 6 billion and the signing of 12 MoUs.
Not surprisingly, India-Africa bilateral trade is growing and rose from $ 967 million in 1990-91 to 9.14 billion in 2004-05. India's exports to Africa have risen from $ 394 million in 1990-91 to $ 5.4 billion in 2004-05, accounting for 6.8 per cent of India's
And given the vitality of African economy, which registered an all-time high in combined real GDP last year, India's trade and business relationship with Africa can only grow further.
‘Focus Africa' Programme
The net result: the Focus Africa programme, started in 2002-03, which initially focused on the Sub-Saharan region with emphasis on seven major trading partners of the region, has been subsequently extended to cover 17 more countries in Africa.
Besides training and capacity building programmes, energy cooperation is set to impart a new dimension to India-Africa relations as vast reserves of hydrocarbons are being discovered and developed in the continent. India's investment in Sudan's hydrocarbon
sector is estimated to be $ 2 billion. ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has already acquired stakes in oil exploration in Libya and Nigeria. The possibilities are huge as Africa emerges as the new hub of global energy supplies.
India also seeks to help Africa in eliminating the scourge of the AIDS epidemic that has killed millions and continue to threaten the continent's youth.
To achieve this objective, New Delhi has entered the field of anti-AIDS vaccines that are in the stage of undergoing tests and is also launching a campaign to eradicate new strains of disease like TB and malaria.
President Kalam has held out hope for mitigating the AIDS epidemic in Africa, saying that an effective AIDS vaccine would be available within five years.
Besides, the President believes that the Indian experience in integrated nation building could be used to empower and enrich Africa.
Even as India and Africa come closer in projects of development and nation-building, their partnership can't hope to exert its requisite weight in world affairs unless they join hands to get their rightful place in the UN Security Council.
Confluence of Interests
Both India and Africa are acutely aware of a serious democracy deficit that afflicts the international body and the hidden and not so hidden opposition to their UN ambitions by some of the world's major powers. But if both sides, representing more than half
the world's humanity, can fight this battle for justice together, they can still make it and use their influence in the global body to create an equitable world.
Many African countries have supported India's bid for the Security Council. Some of them have even supported the G4 resolution. But a consensus on evolving a joint position still eludes us. India sincerely hopes that the two sides are able to synchronize their
positions in the days to come to make a decisive difference to the structure and functioning of the council.
India is aware that about two-third of the agenda of the UN Security Council focuses on Africa, and therefore, Africa needs permanent representation in the UNSC.
The confluence of interests, both bilateral and global, could not have been greater as India and Africa embark on an exciting voyage of rediscovery and get ready to embrace their global destiny in the new millennium. India's stature as a major power is being
increasingly recognized by Africa, which sees it as an ideal partner in its resurgence and renewal. If both sides are able to synergise their energies and initiatives and adapt themselves to a changing world, the 21st century could surely belong to them.