Growing importance of African states


Ashok Ogra
When one thinks of 21st century Africa, the most iconic 2010 FIFA World Cup official song sung by Shakira comes to mind:
“People are raising their expectations
Go feed them, it’s your time
No hesitation …
This time for Africa
This time for Africa… “
Yes, from being considered a black continent until recently, Africa is now seen as the last frontier of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This explains the renewed interest of the world’s major economies in Africa over the past two decades or so. China is certainly leading the charge; Sino-African trade already reaches 200 billion dollars a year. This is indeed laudable given that the majority of African states refused to recognize the Chinese Communist Party when it took power in 1949. In contrast, India has enjoyed trade with Africa for centuries; Two-way trade amounted to US $ 63 billion in 2017-18, and cumulative investment in Africa amounted to US $ 54 billion, making India the fourth-largest investor in Africa.
In this context, the recent publication of the Indian World Affairs Council (ICWA) – INDIA AND AFRICA: ROAD AHEAD – is a welcome addition that will help us strategize for our future partnerships with Africa.
The book contains papers presented by leading experts at a conference on Indo-African relations held in Delhi in 2019, as an impetus for further study and research.
Edited by renowned researcher Dr. Nivedita Ray who, in her brilliant essay “Strengthening India-Africa Ties: Emerging Initiatives, Approaches and Perspectives”, provides an interesting perspective on Indo-African trade and defense and security issues. She writes: “India has reached out to coastal African countries and has developed maritime relations with Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius, through offers of military aid. , capacity building and training assistance.
Recent attacks on African students, Nivedita laments, in some cities in India – though wandering in nature – frustrate India’s efforts to strengthen people-to-people contacts.
India has traded with Africa since ancient times, but trade was limited due to the low speed of ships. This changed after the arrival of steamboats in 1780. The volume of freight transport experienced a sudden increase: from barely twenty ships per year before the discovery of steam engines, now a merchant ship leaves African ports for India almost every day carrying tin, wine, glass of coral and gold and silver coins.
However, in the 21st century, India faces very different challenges in its relationship with Africa. Certainly India has an advantage – enjoying greater confidence among the population – but with China’s rise as an economic superpower coupled with its aggressive trade and investment strategy in Africa – sometimes not to the liking. inhabitants – the dynamics have changed considerably. This is why this book is growing in importance as it touches on some of the key areas that must be studied, addressed and pursued to seize the opportunity that the continent offers.
MEA’s TSTirumurti makes an important observation that the bulk of India’s aid goes towards empowering African people, both in capacity building and in helping to train the sectors to which our development aid is channeled.
Professor Shaji argues somewhat boldly that the new trends of democratization and political reforms underway in African states are mainly due to increased Asian investment. We can ask the academic if it matters for China that the country where it invests is democratic or not? Are there not other factors that weigh heavily on investors? Also, is it not too early to conclude that the democratization process is taking root deeply in Africa?
The growing presence of UN-backed peacekeepers is proof that all is not well in a number of African countries, with tribal and racial conflicts continuing with impunity. In his well-researched article, Chander Prakash Wadhwa examines the nature and challenge of UN peacekeeping in Africa and argues that these are not isolated events but that they take place on a continuum, which ‘they are transformative and fluid.
He makes a valid point: “The complex security environment demands that efforts be made to strengthen existing capacities and develop new capacities to respond to emerging realities.
We all know that various terrorist groups based in a few African countries are present in India. Therefore, Arvind Kumar’s detailed essay on “Deconstructing Terrorism in India & Africa” will be of interest to security agencies. “Africa to a greater extent has formed an arc of instability – from Nigeria to West Africa, from Mali to the Sahel, from Libya to North Africa and from Somalia to East Africa. In the Sahel, there is a resurgence of Al-Qaida. The four terrorist groups that continue to wreak havoc in the regions are: AQIM, Al Mourabitoun of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Ansardine and the Macina Liberation Front. All of these four have recently merged into one group called Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimen. ‘
Arvind calls for the development of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, but takes leave of readers without specifying what those elements should be.
The oil economy also figures prominently: Sanjay Kumar Pradhan reports that African oil and natural gas are both good and marginally cheap. However, one would have liked to see the author examine the logistics and associated costs involved in transporting the same to India. So how did China manage to negotiate major agreements.
In an essay on the appeal of Bollywood among the Indian diaspora, Nandini Sen examines with clinical precision how popular culture (read Bollywood) continues to influence and connect people from afar, identifying them and bringing them together under the big heading of Indianness. Initially, traditional Bollywood did not interest people; however, when films such as Dil Walale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai…. were screened, the diaspora people savored these films, making it the best-selling export item.
We all know that person-to-person contact works. “Too often in the past, public diplomacy efforts have been one-way – understanding a country with a prepackaged and unique agenda … we should think in terms of diverse cultures and the perceptions and needs of those cultures in Africa,” argues Sanjukta Banerjee Bhattacharya.
Incidentally, few people may know that there have been African settlements across the Indian coastal belt for centuries, and nowadays there are around 30,000, mostly in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh. , Karnataka and Kerala. And these Africans continued to maintain their native customs and traditions despite having settled in India for several centuries.
We got a glimpse of it in the Bollywood film RAZIA SULTAN, directed by Kamal Amrohi: Hema Malini (Razia Sultan) – Indian Empress of Turkish descent and Dharmendra (Yakut) playing the role of the Abyssinian black slave / warrior, and Razia’s lover.
Other academics who have contributed to this volume are Pranav Kumar who adequately addresses issues relating to global trade governance and its impact on India-Africa trade; Rajneesh Kumar Gupta and Paokholal Haokip present a useful analysis on the role of the Indian Diaspora in Anglophone Africa and India-Francophone Africa relations respectively; Priyanka Pandit takes a close look at how India and Africa can lobby for urgent reforms in global financial institutions.
Published by KW Publishers, this professionally edited book will be of immense use to policy makers and researchers, as well as to businesses interested in harnessing the potential offered by the continent.
However, the continent presents a picture of great diversity. According to the World Bank’s 2020 Sub-Saharan Africa report, Niger, with 565 United States, has the lowest GDP per capita compared to the 7,143 United States in Equatorial Guinea; it is even higher in the case of Mauritius and the Seychelles. Surprisingly, despite the end of apartheid in 1990, Cape Town offers a contrasting picture with one side of the township where 83% of whites live in large farmhouses with swimming pools and on the other side – cramped and overcrowded – where 93% of Africans reside. This diversity is beautifully expressed by an African writer: “You are not a country, Africa. You are not a concept, Africa. You are a glimpse of infinity.
However, the study of the ever-changing dynamics of 54 sovereign African states must therefore become an ongoing project for Indian academics. Interestingly, NOLLYWOOD from Nigeria and BOLLYWOOD from India have teamed up to produce a film called “Namaste Wahala” about a cross-cultural love affair.
(The author is a renowned management and media educator)


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