Catalyst For Africa’s Resurgence

John Kufuor
Former President of Ghana

The last two decades have seen a resurgence in relations between India and Africa. India’s reputation as the new centre for technology and commerce in Asia has attracted a number of African leaders to the subcontinent.  India’s economic growth is facilitating a new phase of South–South engagement, especially with regard to its long-standing relationship with its ‘near neighbours’ in Africa.  The reinvigoration of the India-Africa relationship has the potential to create a new platform for South-South dialogue and a mutually beneficial partnership that can enhance developmental prospects in both Africa and India.

Relations between India and Africa date back centuries and hark back to a time when Indian merchants conducted trade along the eastern littoral of the African continent. During that period, there was a large amount of commerce and migration between the Indian subcontinent and Africa.  After the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, thousands of Indians were recruited to work in southern and eastern Africa, which gave rise to the vibrant Indian communities found in Africa. Over the years, they have made a significant contribution to the social, economic and political fabric of the continent.

One of the greatest links between India and Africa can be found in India’s Father of the Nation, Mohandas K. Gandhi, better known as Mahatma.  His political career began on the African continent, in South Africa, where he stayed from 1893-1914, and became personally involved in the anti-colonial movement and the fight for civil rights. It was during these struggles that he developed his hallmark approach of ‘satyagraha’, or nonviolent resistance to tyranny, an approach that led India to achieve independence in 1947.  The former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, has rightly remarked, “You gave us Gandhi, we gave you the Mahatma.” Indian independence was an inspiration to Africa, which was still bound by the shackles of colonialism during that time.  African independence crusaders were motivated by Gandhi’s approach and philosophy and this inspired leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia in their own national liberation campaigns.

India’s charismatic first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, cemented the Indo-African relationship and gave it a political structure in his quest for liberation of all nations from colonial rule.  Under his premiership India supported national liberation movements in Africa generously, both financially and politically.  Nehru’s leading role in convening the first Asian-African Conference, along with China’s Zhou Enlai, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s Nkrumah, Indonesia’s Sukarno, and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, paved the way first for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1955 and later for the Group of 77 (G77) in 1964.

India’s political commitment to the NAM and its emphasis on South-South cooperation has left it well positioned to take up engagements across the continent and forge new ties, as it has done in recent years.  South-South regional associations, such as the G77, are being re-invigorated and bilateral agreements and diplomatic ties are flourishing.

As an emerging global player, one of the two main ‘Asian Drivers’, a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) country, a key player in the G77, a member of the G20 and a significant voice at the World Trade Organisation (WTO),  India has a potentially significant role to play in Africa’s resurgence. Many countries in the South, particularly in Africa, are looking to India to utilise its privileged position in the global economy to advocate and protect their interests in various fora such as G20 and WTO.

India has the advantage of being both a developed and developing nation (in different respects) and therefore can act as a bridging nation between the developed and the developing world.  As a long-standing friend to Africa, India can harness its links with developed and developing countries to benefit Africa by partnering with Africans to enhance their economies, private sectors and human resources.

Economic relations between India and Africa are rapidly on an upswing and look set to burgeon in the coming years.  Trade between India and African nations grew from $3.39 billion in 2000 to $30 billion for the year 2007, and it is projected that India-Africa bilateral trade will grow to $150 billion by 2012.

Business and trade relationships are central to underpinning Indo-African ties.  Commercial ties are further strengthened through initiatives such as the Focus on Africa programme, which fosters an enabling environment for Indian companies trading in African nations.

There is considerable support from both Indian and African governments for these growing economic relations.  These linkages are being carefully cultivated in fora such as the India Africa Forum Summit.  The Africa–India Framework for Cooperation, adopted during the 2008 summit, promises to elevate the scope of Indian–African partnership and thereby challenge the existing uneven architectures of economic, political and institutional power.

India’s burgeoning economic expansion in Africa is demonstrated by the diverse portfolio of Indian investment activity on the continent: from numerous small family firms and small and medium enterprises; through to large-scale bids by Indian companies or groups such as the Tatas, Essar and Bharti Airtel. Through these investments, India and Africa are able to solidify economic ties and use these to enhance the performance of a wide range of sectors.

Africa can harness India’s expertise in creating a knowledge economy for sustainable development.  India is second to none in its experience in this endeavour, especially in the context of low-income societies, and is able to channel this experience to Africa. Agriculture and food security are other areas in which Indian knowledge and experience are vital to Africa.  The success of the Green Revolution in India enabled a populous nation to achieve food security and African nations have much to learn from India in this regard as food security is still a stumbling block for many countries on the continent.

Internationally, India is regarded as an IT superpower and it can assist Africa in bridging the digital divide. The Pan- African e-Network, launched in July 2007 in Addis Ababa, goes some way in achieving this by providing facilities for tele-education, tele-medicine and network video conferencing for universities, education centres and clinics across the continent through a network of satellite, fibre optics and wireless connections.

Over recent decades India has successfully harnessed its human resource capacity.  This is currently a great challenge in Africa and India can be a source of enlightenment in this regard. The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme and Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme (SCAAP) provide the opportunity for the people of Africa to upgrade their skills in areas such as IT and computing, which in turn benefit the continent as a whole by ensuring the international competitiveness of its people. Through its focus on providing short training programmes in areas as diverse as small and medium-scale industries, rural credit programmes, food processing, textiles and women’s entrepreneurship, the ITEC also provides a means of strengthening private sector development, a key component of Africa’s resurgence.

India has been extremely forthcoming in the creation of initiatives to bolster Indo-African partnerships for mutual benefit. The Techno-Economic Approach for Africa–India Movement (TEAM-9) initiative is one such example, as it aims to improve food security, healthcare, telecommunications and transport through a technological focus on eight West African countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal.

India has also been particularly generous in providing much-needed development assistance to countries in Africa.  India has cancelled the debts of five countries in Africa — Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia — while its EXIM Bank has extended lines of credit to institutions in a number of African countries, including Angola, Djibouti, Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, and Zambia.

India and Ghana have a particularly special bond, which was built on by Ghana’s first President Nkrumah and India’s first Prime Minister, Nehru. Significantly, India House, the residence of the High Commissioner of India, is situated across the road to Flagstaff House, the office of president Nkrumah, underlining the special relationship between India and Ghana. It was on account of this special bond that my administration decided to collaborate with Indian partners in the building of the new Presidential Palace. India offered invaluable technical and financial assistance in this joint venture and the partnership resulted in the creation of a particularly unique architectural edifice that encapsulates Ghanaian culture and tradition.

The building, originally christened Jubilee House to mark the 50th anniversary of independence but later re-named Flagstaff House, stands as a monument of friendship between Ghana and India and is a centrepiece of the nation’s capital.

India has demonstrated a commitment to Ghana’s development agenda by not only providing lines of credit and grants, but also through investments and partnerships with Ghana with companies, in a range of sectors in the Ghanaian economy.   For example, in the agriculture sector, Indian company, Hazel Mercantile, has invested $45 million in Ghana in a project to grow jatropha for biodiesel.  In the manufacturing sector, Indian corporate stalwart Mahindra & Mahindra has made a huge investment in collaboration with Zoom Lion Ghana to build a tractor assembly plant and technology transfer centre in Kumasi.  Also in this sector, a memorandum of understanding was signed in July 2010 between India and Ghana for setting up a $1.2 billion joint venture fertiliser project, using gas to manufacture fertiliser.

The manufacturing and agriculture sectors are not the only ones in Ghana that have benefited from Indian investments.  Information technology in Ghana has received a tremendous amount of backing from India.  During my watch as president, the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence for ICT was established by a significant contribution from the Indian government.  NIIT, an Indian-owned ICT educational organisation, is developing the human resource capacity of many Ghanaians by providing training in a number of different IT programmes. With regard to the ICT commercial market, Bharti Airtel has successfully bought out Zain and entered into Ghana’s tele-communications sector.

In addition to the IT sector, Ghana’s booming financial sector is also attracting Indian investment. One of India’s reputable banks, Bank of Baroda, has established a branch in Ghana and Ghana welcomes further investment from India’s financial organisations.

Ghana and India are committed to the achievement of sustainable, equitable development.  This underscores the importance of Ghanaian and Indian partnerships in areas that will impact directly on this goal.  An important development in this area is the increased collaboration between Ghanaian and Indian pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and supply quality, affordable drugs to Ghana’s health sector.

These partnerships enable Ghana to benefit from India’s ‘Triple A technology’ (affordable, available, adaptable) that is well suited to Ghanaian markets.  The collaboration between India and Ghana in the rural electrification project is another means by which the marginalised are being incorporated into Ghana’s development process.

India’s solidarity with African countries such as Ghana and its respect for sovereignty of other countries strengthens progressive economic, social and political forces in Africa. The heightened interest in rekindling long-standing ties to Africa offers the continent new avenues of growth and progress towards equitable and sustainable development. The present challenge is for leaders in Africa and India to harness these linkages so that they are mutually beneficial to their countries, sectors and peoples.

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