India - Africa Relations and China Focus in Africa IAS Target

India - Africa Relations and China Focus in Africa

17 Nov 2019

Category : International Relations

Topic: India - Africa Relations and China Focus in Africa

Africa is a continent with a number of opportunities like socio-economic, natural resources, and demography development, which magnetizes global competition and attraction. Africa is a chance, one that is being shaped for and by the African people. As per the report by IMF (international monetary fund), Africa is the world's 11th fastest growing economic country. Countries like India and China, have been investing in Africa to tap such potential, and this leads to extensive investment and development, which made the African leaders embracing the competition.

India-China competition in Africa

In the last few years, lack of high-level visits by India to African states created an impression of ignoring by India to Africa in its foreign policy, which stood out in bleak contrast to China, where top Chinese leaders like Vice-President, President, and Foreign Minister, visiting African countries repeatedly. Recent critiques of China’s engagement with Africa apart, if China has been more successful in the continent despite India’s much-vaunted anti-colonial solidarity and centuries-old cultural links with the continent, part of the answer lies in high-level diplomacy deficit.
However, India lately realized a deficit in the high-level interaction b/w Indian Head of states and head of government with African leaders. Our prominent leaders visited many African countries as we saw PM visit to Africa, preceded by President visits Ghana, Namibia and Cote D’Ivoire and Vice-President trips to Tunisia and Morocco, end this extended period of diplomatic drought, and sent a powerful message across to a resurgent continent that India is finally somber about pushing India-Africa relations onto a higher trajectory, not only in terms of rhetoric but also in reality. These trips indicate India's strategic design to hold all the regions of Africa through his triple S mantra of Skill, Scale and Speed, and position Africa as an important role in his foreign policy calculus. While China has been in Africa’s mining, infrastructure, oil, and natural gas sectors for many years. India, despite moving late, has worked through education, training capacity-building programmes — which have been well-received by the countries.

Leveraging Diaspora

The well-entrenched Indian diaspora in southern and eastern Africa is a powerful asset in India’s diplomatic toolkit; however, it remains underleveraged and hasn’t received the kind of attention its counterpart in the West has got. Some may think the comparison between India and China is unjustified, but it can’t be wished away. In terms of diaspora and soft power, India has quite benefits compared to China, though the number of Chinese working in African countries is mounting, there is no long-standing Chinese diaspora, giving India a distinct advantage in this area.
There will be quiet purposeful diplomacy focused on main areas of mutual concern and interest in all these capitals. Enhancing development cooperation, pivoted on India’s core strengths in capacity building training and knowledge industries, will be high on the agenda. In all these countries, India is a prime partner in the continent’s resurgence by unveiling new Lines of Credit and assistance in all sectors, especially in the capacity build up. Since 2008, India has extended 40,000 scholarships to African countries under the ITEC programme

China-Africa economic relationship

Economic relations between Africa and China are growing faster especially after the cold war period. Today, China seeks resources for its growing consumption, and African countries seek funds to develop their infrastructures. Large-scale structural projects, often accompanied by a soft loan, are proposed to African countries rich in natural resources. China mostly funds the construction of infrastructures such as dams, ports, roads and rail, roads, and airports.
In the economic and diplomatic rush into Africa, France, the United States, and the UK are China's prime competitors. China surpassed the US in 2009 to become the leading trading partner of Africa. Bilateral trade agreements have been signed b/w China and 40 countries of the continent.

Infrastructure projects.

Another top priority of India will be to dovetail the narratives of a growing India and African economic resurgence. Unsure global economic situation and a dramatic decline in commodity prices due to China’s economic slowdown may have badly affected Africa’s economic outlook, but despite these discouraging trends, Africa remains a zone of opportunity. Superior infrastructure, improved governance, service sector growth, combined with the expanding middle-class consumer market, has enhanced the attractiveness quotient of Africa.

Strategic Design

Against the backdrop of the rising tide of terrorism and radicalism in the large swathes of the continent, India and Africa focus on escalating counter-terror cooperation. The Mumbai-like terror attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi and the expanding footprints of terror syndicates like Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab highlight the imperative for India to firm up structured counter-terror cooperation through intelligence-sharing.
Enhancing maritime cooperation will be an optional priority as the blue economy vision can’t be realised without proactive maritime cooperation with coastal African countries situated on the Indian Ocean seaboard. On a range of cross-cutting global issues, including the UN Security Council reform, climate change, and sustainable development. The stasis in the African Union consensus on the UNSC reforms has hampered the momentum in the long-standing quest to create a more democratic UN Security Council, which is in tune with contemporary geo-economic realities.

Partners in Peace

India is a key partner in the UN Peacekeeping missions on the African continent. The major peacekeeping missions in Africa in which India engaged are-
  • Liberia
  • Ivory Coast
  • South Sudan
  • Democratic Republic of Congo

Till date, India has deployed about 4,500 soldiers on the ground. This includes the only fully formed Indian female police unit in Liberia. Beijing, which has marched ahead in the race for Africa’s markets and resources. While it’s disfiguring to depict Africa as the centre of a new great game or neo-colonial scramble, it can’t be rebuffed that the continent has emerged as a beacon of hope amid the prolonged global slowdown, trade war between the two largest economies of the world, and the deglobalization and protectionism attitude adopted by the western bloc. China is pledging $60 billion for Africa at FOCAC-II in Johannesburg in 2015 for development, infrastructure creation, line of credit and to engage the African continent under its “ONE BELT-ONE ROAD” dream project.
India has pushed the envelope by hosting it’s first-ever summit with the whole of Africa in October 2015 which was attended by more than 40 African leaders and representatives of the African continent. India, which itself requires foreign capital and technology, bet on the new African opportunity by pledging $10 billion LOC, which surpassed commitments made at the previous two summits. The two documents that emerged from IAFS-III have laid out an all-encompassing agenda for India and Africa to interlink their destinies closely in a rapidly mutating world, and aid each other’s resurgence.
India announced a joint initiative with the United States to provide training for troops in five African countries before their deployment in United Nation peace-keeping missions. Similarly, India and Japan agreed to develop cooperation with African countries. The increasing Sino-Indian involvement has been economically beneficial and has resulted in widespread development and investment, with African leaders welcoming the competition. While China’s aggressive economic approach has caused it to achieve more influence in Africa, its power is slowly being hampered by India’s growing involvement in the region.

African nations are gradually realizing the cost of Chinese investments, there are certain issues like:

  • Chinese companies don’t pay attention to environment protection.
  • Chinese loans come with strict conditions that only Chinese technology will be used.
  • Chinese companies instead of employing locals use Chinese workers.
  • India needs to harness this opportunity. India is already enjoying the goodwill of African people due to historical bonds and Indian company’s practices of employing local workers and skilling them.

India’s challenges in Africa

  • Political instability in several African Nations may affect India’s long term investment opportunities. Undermining of democratic institutions and power acquired by military establishments and active support by China also challenging for the world largest democratic country

  • An extraordinary augment in terrorist attacks by extremists connected to al-Qaida and ISIS across Africa recently

  • In recent months, there has been a spate of assaults on Africans based in India. These assaults generate a negative image of India in Africa. This cultural attack on Africans creates a bad impression about India in African countries and this has an implication on issues ranging from tourism to country level engagement.

  • Religious and Ethnic conflicts and governance issues in some countries make foreign contributors aversive to venture in the region.
  • USA along with China has also been offering soft loans which are being lapped up by capital starved African nations