Africa Day, commemorated every year on 25th May advocates Africa’s dignity and contributions towards human civilisation. This day is to pay tribute to the founding fathers of Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union (AU). Celebrated widely across the African continent, the day also honours heroes who died in the struggle to liberate their countries from colonial rule. The day has more relevance today, because the world is facing one of the most challenging crises as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
India and Africa share a warm and cordial relationship, and the partnership dates back several centuries. Africa Day is a good time to reflect on the expanding relationship between India and Africa. While the future of the India-Africa economic partnership will be mainly driven by the private sector, the Indian government has taken several initiatives to deepen India-Africa relationship. Recently, the Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan delivered India’s message at the ‘Summit on Financing African Economies’ which was hosted by the French President Emmanuel Macron. He highlighted India’s unique development partnership with Africa which is characterised by innovation, local needs and transparency. He further mentioned that “India is committed to building a more strong and resilient Africa. Over 89 projects across 41 countries in Africa are being implemented with Indian concessional credit.” Moreover, numerous digital innovations have emerged from the India-Africa partnership.
In this time of global crises, India’s proactive approach to reach out to the African continent has been appreciated by many African nations. The challenges posed by the pandemic have made the India-Africa relationship even stronger. Africa is a region where medical facilities are among the least developed globally. India’s medical diplomacy built on historical goodwill has successfully sent essential drugs and vaccines to several African countries to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, “India has supplied 24.7 million doses of Made in India COVID vaccines as grants, and commercial and COVAX supplies to 42 countries in Africa”. Human resource development and capacity building have also been significant indicators of India’s Development Partnership with Africa. India’s flagship initiative on South-South Cooperation is the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme. The focus of this programme till date has been on capacity building, and under this scheme, thousands of young Africans have been trained in agriculture, accountancy, hydrology, information technology, management and small and medium industries. The India-Africa Forum Summits have also laid emphasis on these aspects of cooperation.
Africa is poised to be India’s priority. External Affair Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Mauritius in February 2020 has also led to deepening engagement, boosting bilateral relations and strengthening people to people ties between India and Africa. India’s signing of the Comprehensive Economic Co-operation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) with Mauritius makes the strategically located island country an important platform for business expansion by providing new opportunities in trade, goods and services in the African continent. Mauritius acts as the gateway to Africa, thus, Indians would be able to invest both in Mauritius and across the continent. The visit was significant in evolving India’s maritime strategy towards the Indian Ocean as India enjoys a strategic position in the Indian Ocean.
Despite the fact that our own country is adversely affected by the pandemic and is going through a tough time, we have acted as a responsible stakeholder towards Africa, conveying our ability and support to deepen our relation with the continent as we move ahead.
Our relationship with Africa, thus goes beyond strategic reach and economic interest. It is more to do with the emotional connection that we share and solidarity that we feel for each other. On this day, it’s an affirmation to the continent that India has shifted its gears of engagement with Africa, and both will together fight against this pandemic.