India’s quest to become a global economic giant has opened up new avenues for the deepening of partnership with Africa.
From health, education, agriculture, energy, information and communications technology (ICT), industrialisation, capacity building among others, India is increasing its scope of investment in Africa.
With a large population of 1.2 billion people, India is increasingly making steady inroads into the continent, developing strategies to appeal to African countries in vital sectors such as health care, education, investment and trade, making that country an important economic partner for African countries.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Indian businesses have made inroads into many African countries including Ghana.
The creation of summits and investment fora between India and Africa as a means of strengthening the Indo- African bond has become the convergent point for policy makers and business leaders from various sectors of Africa and India to guide the growth of businesses seeking solutions, technologies and projects, as well as the building of capacity and resource mobilisation.
At the 12th Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) Eximbank Conclave held in March 2017 in India, the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, announced the extension of some $10 billion concessionary facility to Africa which is to be disbursed in the next five years.
Already, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania are among the number of African countries to have received the most Indian-government backed Lines of Credit (LoCs) over the last 10 years.
These LoCs went into the financing of close to 120 projects in 40 countries across the continent, with Ghana’s Presidential Complex, the Flagstaff House, The India-Ghana Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in ICT, the Elmina Fish Harvest & Processing Plant, the Komenda Sugar Factory being some of the most visible projects in Ghana.
A joint publication of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and CII in 2015 indicated that Africa’s share of India’s global exports increased from $17.9 billion in 2010 to $34.6 billion in 2015.
Data from the Indian government and the African Development Bank, also pointed out how bilateral trade between India and Africa had increased from $1 billion in 1995 to $75 billion in 2015, while India’s exports to Africa have increased by 93 per cent from 2010 with imports rising to about 28 per cent in 2015.
One may, however, ask why the huge financial and development assistance to Africa when the 2015 Socio-economic and Caste Census (SECC) painted a stark picture of widespread rural poverty and deprivation among majority of Indians?
The SECC surveyed some 300 million households of which some 73 per cent were village dwellers who are said to earn less than five per cent income since they have no salaried jobs.
With several homeless people living in makeshift homes beneath some major bridges in the city of Delhi, journalists from 29 African countries who participated in the 12th Conclave sought some response from the Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen Dr Vijay Kumar Singh (retd).
Dr Singh, during the interaction, was of the view that open economies were moving towards protectionism since emerging economies were gradually becoming the torchbearers of free trade.
According to him, Africa and India shared a common history thereby making it imperative for them to share knowledge and skills for development which would in turn create more opportunities and better the lives of the people in India and Africa.
“India has enough resources and it is only wise we share with our friends in Africa with whom we share a common history of colonisation,” Dr Singh said.
“Whatever we are doing is from a shared history of colonisation. We want to ensure that our friends do not walk in the dark again and they must rise with us,” Dr Singh added.
He maintained that India’s model of assistance was different from what other developed countries gave to Africa.
“India’s model was to partner with African countries in a mutually beneficial way rather than the gimmick of aid and assistance which has left Africa more confused and backward,” he suggested.
India, he suggested, had made giant strides in science and technology, poverty eradication, agriculture and manufacturing, medicine and many other sectors and was willing to partner with its friends and brothers in Africa without any hidden agenda.
“Poverty was one challenge that helped us to undertake projects in industrialisation to optimise employment avenues for thousands of our nationals,” Dr Singh told the visiting journalists.
“Our policy has been to consolidate our friendship with everybody in such a manner that we can do business with Africa, the United States, Russia, Iran, and all other countries in the world,” the minister stressed.
Dr Singh stressed that resource utilisation and the building of institutional capacity were key to the self-sufficiency of many African countries.
“We don’t want countries to be dependent on us, hence our decision to provide an avenue for them to create their own model of development which they can follow. While we will want to hold the hands of our friends, we want them to be independent using self-sustaining solutions models they may have learned from us”, Dr Singh pointed out.
Many of India’s small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, he said, had created maximum livelihood for thousands of Indians as against big industries, “and these are areas we believe Africa could make tremendous gains from if the people have capacity and information,” Dr Singh claimed.
The extension of scholarships to African students, the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programmes, he maintained, were specific need programmes targeted at people and countries to help them build the needed human and institutional capacity.
Irrespective of the kind of infrastructure and assistance India was extending to other countries across the world, the Minister suggested that India also had its own problems.
He said India used to have less production levels which culminated in famine; however, a green revolution concept, initiated by the government had helped feed the entire population of India and even export to parts of Europe, in spite of the increasing population.
Much as the visiting African journalists agreed with what the minister described as India’s intention in Africa, they used the interaction to further interrogate the “deep intentions” of India in Africa, which to many of them ended up at the resource base of the continent.
While many of the journalists were of the opinion that India’s attempt to get a piece of the African resource was not a bad idea, past experiences have shown that many industrialised nations often come first with ‘good intentions’ but end up exploiting and raping Africa of its wealth thereby leaving it more impoverished than they met it.
A participant from the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr Makut Simon Macham, observed that: “No industrial nation sets out to Africa clearly setting its real motives on the table. He pointed out that developed nations often would “coat” their intentions with sweet pretences of seeking mutually beneficial relationships, however, they soon begin to exploit and often never give a thought to either the environment or their host communities.”
“Look at the oil companies in the Niger Delta of Nigeria for instance. They have not only become an albatross for the region, but in collusion with corrupt individuals and groups in and outside government, have become untouchable. The environment is polluted and no one knows what amount of oil they actually take. This has left many asking whether oil and other resources Africa is endowed with are a curse or a blessing,” he said.
Citing countries such as Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, South Sudan, Niger, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana where the Chinese, British, Americans, Germans, French, Portuguese, Russians, Italians and others were exploiting African resources such as gold and hunting wildlife, Mr Macham said those activities had rendered those countries more impoverished than before.
Other participating journalists maintained the view that African nations ought to set their agenda straight and engage the world by on their own terms so as to encourage technology transfer, rapid industrialisation and sustainable development.
The new window between Africa-India provides an opportunity for these lopsided relationships to be corrected to enable Africa to clearly define what good partnership ought to be about.
By Della Russel Ocloo
Source: Daily Graphic
Used with permission