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Reflection on the India-Africa Forum Summit

By Amha Hailegeorgis

Dec 1st, 2015


Both emerging and developing economies are vociferously courting the renascent continent, showing Africa’s growing significance in international relations. The partnerships include Africa-South America, India-Africa, Turkey-Africa, US-Africa, Africa-South Korea, Arab-Africa, Europe-Africa, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD process) led by Japan . This is seen as a consequence of Africa's arrival on the global stage as a growing economic power; as well as it having the second largest population in the world.


Africa-India Forum was launched in New Delhi, India, in April 2008 during African and Indian leaders Summit. This Summit was held at three levels –Senior Officials, Ministers and Heads of State and Government. The Summit produced two major documents, namely the Delhi Declaration and an Africa-India Framework for Cooperation. India offered concessional Lines of Credit to African LDCs, provided scholarships to African post-graduate students in the field of Agriculture to study in Indian Universities and institutions, offered to establish various Institutions, vocational training centers and prototype housing schemes in the various regions of the continent as well as the establishment of the Pan-African E-Network project for tele-medicine and tele-education. The 2nd Summit was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 25 May 2011 and followed similar format.


  1. The Third India-Africa Forum

The third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS III) took place in New Delhi from 26-29 October 2015. Originally scheduled for December 2014 but postponed because of the Ebola crisis, the 3rd Forum was a milestone event, with more than 50 African states and representatives from the African Union participating.

This summit is a significant departure from the Banjul formula of July 2006.   The ‘Banjul Formula’ was announced to ensure effective representation and bargaining by Africa in bilateral summits. The Formula recommends the following African representation for ‘country-to-continent’ summitry: the current chairperson of the AU; the previous chairperson of the AU; the chairperson of the AU Commission; the five NEPAD initiating countries (Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa); the chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee; and the current chairing countries of the AU-endorsed eight Regional Economic Communities .

Unlike the previous Summit which followed Banjul formula India, during the 3rd Summit, invited all 54 African Countries of which 40 of them represented by heads of State and government. In this way the summit was unique from the previous forums.

At the previous two meetings - in New Delhi in 2008 and Addis Ababa in 2011 - the number of participants from Africa was limited to a maximum of 15 heads of state, chosen by the African Union to represent the entire African continent. Ethiopia has participated in the past forum Summits at the highest level.

Why the Indian government chose to expand the scope of the summit ultimately remains unclear. Possible explanations include the success of FOCAC and the apparently ever-increasing number of Chinese actors on the African continent; the revamped efforts by the United States and European Union to strengthen relations with African leaders at their respective Africa summits earlier this year; or attempts to increase cooperation between African states and India as part of India's wider foreign and foreign economic policy goals. Another explanation could be the fact that Several AU member states that are excluded from high-level summitry by its pattern of regional representation have criticized the mechanism for being an elite club of AU member states .

The third India-Africa Summit reviewed projects implemented during the past two summits and demonstrated how Africa fits into India’s new foreign policy outlook and clarify about the impact of ‘Make in India’ policy. The Official Document of the Summit emphasized that the event marked the celebration of the close partnership between Africa and India. It was an acknowledgment of the shared history of the two areas as well as of their future prospects. The Summit allowed for consultations for the highest political level between the Heads of Government across Africa and the Government of India and provided a new thrust to their age-old partnership. It provided an opportunity not only to reflect on the past but also to define the road ahead.


During this Summit India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Line of Credit $10 billion at a concessional rate for Africa for a period of five years for development related and capacity building projects in addition to the ongoing LoC supported projects in that continent.


  1. Way Forward

The large attendance of African leaders during the third India Africa forum is seen as significant as the interaction was more comprehensive. The India-Africa forum is worthy of being sustained and strengthened. Therefore it is indeed desirable and necessary that India and her associates in Africa meet occasionally to rub minds on their place in the modern world which has become more closely-knit by technology and scientific progress and for the two sides to exchange notes on the challenges and opportunities for their development in contemporary times. The focus can would be fruitful in the following areas:

  • Technology Transfer:- Though a technologically advancing nation, Indian technology is one that can be recommended for use by poor African countries that seek to improve the lot of their people. In the area of small scale industries, agriculture and textiles, India-Africa relations can be harnessed to lift more people in Africa out of poverty, degradation and hopelessness. African countries who attended the forum with India could ask for Indian experts and specialists in fields where they are lacking, bearing in mind that such specialists would be less costly but more productive than their counterparts from the West.


  • Education:- In the area of education and knowledge, there was a time that Indian teachers were common sight in many of our educational institutions, including up to tertiary level. Many government officials in different African countries including Ethiopia has benefitted from instruction by Indian teachers in science and mathematics while in secondary school. African countries during the coming years needs to present tangible proposals to the Indian side to develop from this unique opportunity. There is a large population of Africans, mostly young people who are pursuing professional and higher education in the country. India has recently emerged as a leading nation in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), space science and exploration, human medicine and pharmaceuticals, as well as the development of mass transportation expertise like railways.

  • Agriculture:. India is an agricultural power. It can share experience from the way it is able to feed its huge population and export food, notably rice, to other countries and African states.

  • Security Council Membership:- India and Africa can no longer be excluded from their rightful place of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. As Indian Foreign Minister declared during the summit We cannot expect legitimacy from a governance structure that excludes the entire African continent and a country which represent 1/6th of humanity.

In Short India and Africa share complimentary relationships. They need to see the India-Africa forum summits as an opportunity to evolve common ground and cooperation in economic, political and other major issues in international relations.

Conclusion

Although the very concept of strategic partnership is subjective, currently it is associated with a broad convergence of interest between two parties which has the capacity to fundamentally impact the balance of power to their mutual advantage, regionally and globally. The African Union has also signed strategic partnership agreements, during the last decade, with numerous countries and international organizations including India. Africa so far does not develop a coherent strategy towards the partner that would set the ground rules for engagement. It is high time for Africa to develop a Strategy toward the latter and abide by the Banjul Formula.

Mr. Amha Hailegeorgis holds M.A in Diplomacy and international relations. He can be reached at Amhahailegeorgis@yahoo.com


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