By Dr Neha Sinha
With the United States of America -Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, December 2022 – we see how the US is trying to positively reframe its relationship with the African continent. At the end of the summit, several initiatives were announced to deepen and enhance partnership between the two.
Around 49 African governments, the African Union Commission, representatives from civil society and the private sector, young leaders, and the African diaspora in the United States, attended the event spanning from 13-15th December.
The summit illustrated the US’s revived commitment to Africa and provided President Biden’s administration with an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest and enhance cooperation on shared global priorities.
It’s pertinent to note that the summit took place at a time when the Russia-Ukraine crisis had fractured the African continent’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has led to food and energy insecurities, trade & supply change instability, and inflation the continent.
Some of the African countries, prior to the pandemic; were among the fastest-growing economies of the world. Now, the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict has threatened the governance and socio-economic gains on the continent.The summit is an indication of Biden’s renewed approach towards Africa, with the realization that a much-needed push in US-Africa relations is required.
The last summit between the two took place eight years ago in 2014, where Washington focused much on engaging with ‘new and prosperous’ Africa. In comparison, this summit stressed upon the economic crisis, political tussles further resulting into an impending debt crisis for many African nations.
Traditionally, the US-Africa engagement focused majorly on promoting democracy, foreign aid, eradicating poverty, resolving conflict and settling insecurities on the continent. Despite these priorities being important, the US has failed to address the fast-paced changes occurring across the continent.
Africa has already emerged as a destination for new and emerging technologies with digital innovation. With the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there are both opportunities and risks in critical sectors. Owing to territorial and demographic scenarios, it’s noticed that the US has lost ground in Africa over the last decade. There has been a decline in trade and investment flows.
During the massive gap of eight years, there emerged several partners for Africa like the European Union (EU), China, India, Japan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These partners have all held meetings and visits with African countries. Therefore, Africa has reduced its dependence on western aid and has diversified its partnership with other countries.
Today, amidst the intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China’s engagement in Africa, it’s important to analyze the status of India on the African continent. Both the US and India see a vital national interest in revamping relations with the African continent.
It’s important to understand that the US and India are both important development partners for Africa, and they share different levels of relations. With common interest, both India and the U.S. can together collaborate in healthcare, renewable energy, and financial technology.
In 2021,the two countries resumed a global development partnership agreement to work together in African nations on issues related to regional connectivity, clean energy and disaster risk reduction. Both nations also agreed to offer capacity-building aid to partner countries of Africa and Asian nations in multiple sectors.
The areas of focus were mainly on agriculture, regional connectivity, trade and investment, nutrition, health, clean and renewable energy, women’s empowerment, disaster preparedness, water, sanitation, education and institution building.
To strengthen its relationships with Africa, India orchestrated more than 35 VVIP visits to various African nations. India has taken a number of significant measures to deepen its cooperation with Africa at regional, bilateral, and multilateral levels. PM Modi, at the Ugandan Parliament in his ten guiding principles shaping India’s relation with Africa, mentioned that “Africa will beat the top of our priorities.”
Today, India as the president of G20 is supporting Africa’s interests in this forum.India even plans to focus on delivering an outcome that will help African nations and other segments of the Global South. However, it is equally important for India to focus on the previous commitments made to Africa and ensure they are implemented before signing up for new ones. The need of the hour is to implement the previous promises made.
Moreover, to enhance the partnership several steps can be taken: India should closely consult African partners to develop a new version of the ‘G20 Compact with Africa’ (CwA). Learn ways to engage with Brazil and South Africa, the next two presidents of G20 – so that they remain fully motivated to carry forward the process and implement its outcomes.
The Indian government should try to lobby efficiently with G7, China, Russia, and other G20 members to secure a full membership of G20 for the AU. There are certain areas where India can collaborate with Africa – by supporting Africa’s Representation in Global Governance, by continuing extending support to African resilience and recovery from COVID-19 pandemic, by focusing on the key pillars of India’s development partnership with Africa which are: capacity-building initiatives, lines of credit, grant support, small development projects, technical consultation, disaster relief and humanitarian help, and military cooperation.
Over the last decade, India and Africa have come closer, and their relationship has witnessed economic diplomacy and mutual support in both regional as well as the global arena. As both of them share similar growth challenges, they benefit from bilateral and multilateral agreements that foster stronger developmental cooperation, enhanced commercial, constant knowledge sharing and exchange of best practices in major fields.
Moreover, given India and Africa’s geostrategic position and their rapid economic growth rates, both have similar development needs and concerns about democratic representation at governance bodies and various international financial institutions. In this scenario, mutual cooperation between India and Africa can not only turntables for them but can also help them carve important roles for them in future global governance structure and geo-economic order.
Author is Senior Assistant Professor, Amity Institute of International Studies. New Delhi.
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