For a New Global Order

Cheick Sidi Diarra
UN Under-Secretary General

The global economy is undergoing dramatic changes and its centre of gravity is shifting towards the East and the South. The economic rise of Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Turkey and other emerging economies and the resurgence of Africa are creating a multipolar world economy that requires a rebalanced global governance architecture. India and Africa, tied together by strong historical bonds and increasingly close political and economic relations, are two of the major players that could shape our global future, and can only benefit from cooperating closely in advocating for a multilateral and democratic global governance regime.

Relations between India  and Africa date back many centuries. Traders had crossed the Indian Ocean at least since the first century, and the expansion of the European empires, particularly the British, saw Indian immigrants resettled along the eastern coast of Africa. During decolonisation, India offered its solidarity to Africa in its struggle for independence. The relationship has further deepened in recent years, reflecting the increasing economic interaction between the two rising powers.

In this new global environment, African countries have taken the lead in setting the continent on a path of sustainable economic and social progress. The African renaissance manifested itself in the launch of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development in July 2001. This Africa-owned and Africa-led vision allows African countries to take full control of their development agenda, to cooperate more effectively with their international partners, and to claim a fair role in the global arena.

Greater unity and closer cooperation have allowed Africa to take this initiative, and its concerns and views have been progressively taken into consideration in the global agenda as a result. It has forged a common position on UN reforms, calling for more representation of the continent and other regions on the Security Council, and has developed a common position on climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, a series of global and bilateral partnerships involving the continent were established to address development and financing issues.

Along with the African renewal movement, African economies have expanded gradually. GDP growth rates reached nearly 6 percent per annum during the first eight years of the new millennium, almost matching India’s and China’s growth performance. One key aspect of Africa’s recent resurgence, which differentiates it from the oil boom of the 1970s, is the greater stability in the political and macro-economic climate, accompanied by structural reforms. These efforts have allowed African economies to grow in a more peaceful and secure environment, a necessary precondition for socio-economic development. As a result, African economies have shown resilience during the recent global economic crisis, growing by about 2 percent in 2009 and an estimated 5 percent in 2010 and thus recovering faster than the global economy. This performance is even more striking when compared to the lost decades of the 1980s and 1990s during which real GDP per capita fell by 42.5 percent, according to some estimates.

Prudent macro-economic policies have also allowed African economies to take
advantage of a combination of favourable external factors, including high commodity prices, foreign direct investment, sustained aid, debt relief and remittances. All of these factors are at least partly attributable to the rise of emerging economies and the dynamism they have brought to the world economy. The resulting growth in Africa, however, has not been driven only by commodity exports, but also by an expansion in services such as wholesale and retail trade, banking, telecommunications, tourism, and construction.

Against this background, Africa’s growth and India’s simultaneous rise has led to a dramatic increase in trade relations between the two regions. India’s exports to Africa, only $1.5 billion in 1995, reached a historic high of $45 billion in 2010. While Indian imports from Africa have also surged, particularly in the very recent past, they remain dominated by commodities, and are also much more geographically concentrated. Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Angola account for more than two-thirds of all imports from the continent.

India’s cooperation with Africa has not only focused on trade, but also technology transfer, capacity building and human resource development. This exemplary partnership, formalised in the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation adopted during the first ever Africa-India Forum Summit in New Delhi in 2008, is based on the principles of mutual benefit and solidarity of the South-South cooperation. As they face similar challenges, the two economies can share experiences in agriculture and industry, education, health and poverty alleviation, and good governance and democracy to enormous mutual benefit.

Today, Africa positions itself as a key partner in the global arena, its collective GDP of more than $1 trillion being roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s in 2008. The continent is now home to more than a billion inhabitants, offering great market potential, thanks to the increasing purchasing power of its consumers. African economies offer higher rates of returns on investments than any other developing region. Africa is also immensely rich in natural resources, energy and minerals, carries 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and has a young and dynamic population. The continent thus offers promising long-term sustainable growth prospects which would be further enhanced by a deeper integration of Africa into the global economy and the global governance system. Africa needs the world and the world needs Africa.

Meanwhile, the impressive economic rise of emerging powers, including India, and of other middle-income countries like South Africa, has transformed the global environment, leading to a multipolar world. This geopolitical shift in economic influence and power calls for a more inclusive and balanced global governance. Moreover, the recent global economic and financial crisis has given a new impetus to more coordinated and inclusive global responses, as demonstrated by the emergence of the G-20 on the world stage. Climate change is another developmental challenge that can only be addressed by inclusive and coordinated action at the global level.

Consequently, it is more important than ever to hear the voices and take into account the concerns of all stakeholders and members of the global community. Africa and India are facing similar impediments and a shared destiny, and thus need to work together to address these global challenges and improve the well-being of their peoples and societies around the world. This cooperation can only effectively take place in a multilateral and democratic setting, and the UN remains the best available arena to pursue the joint goals.

Africa and India have already taken steps to participate more effectively than before by voicing their concerns and by influencing the global economic policy coordination efforts during the G-20 summits to address the consequences of the global financial and economic crises. Alongside this endeavour, the expansion of South-South cooperation between Africa and its emerging development partners, including India, contributed to the economic recovery of the continent from the crisis, on the one hand, and to the strengthening of Africa’s position in the global order on the other. India and other emerging countries should continue to lead the change of perception about the African continent and make it more attractive to foreign investments.

In the context of the global governance architecture, Africa and India should step up their cooperation in order to influence the international agenda. Their shared interests will allow them to ensure that voices and concerns of the most vulnerable are taken into account and that global governance carries a holistic long-term vision of sustainable development.

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