India-Africa friendship in the emerging new world order

By Samir Bhattacharya
Article India-Africa friendship in the emerging new world order
DEC 25, 2022 LISTEN

The disastrous effects of the Russia-Ukraine war extended well beyond the borders of the European continent. It is felt throughout the developing world, more so in Africa. The continent was already overwhelmed in dealing with the pandemic's catastrophic impacts. And now that the metastasising war is about to complete a year, the harm it did to the continent is quite evident. Rising food and energy prices, breakdowns in trade of commodities and services, the failure of green transition plans, and a reduction in the flow of development financing caused a severe humanitarian crisis for Africa.

Due to the skyrocketing fuel cost over the past two years, food and fertiliser prices have nearly doubled in Africa. Domestic food production declined, increasing the continent's reliance on food imports. The lives of those most vulnerable have been made more difficult due to the downward supply and price spiral that has been created. In effect, the war not only hindered the continent's gradual recovery but also had the potential to roll back many of the developmental advances it had made over the years.

To name one concrete effect, Africa's perception of the rest of the world has changed due to the Ukraine crisis. The significant disparity between the resources mobilised by conventional development partners to assist Ukraine and those committed to solving famine, security concerns, and COVID-19 in Africa is becoming increasingly apparent to the continent. The prioritisation of Ukraine over African issues didn't go well with the African leaders.

This is partly because the West's contempt for African problems would only worsen matters, leading to increased inequality and poverty on the continent. African countries struggle to raise the necessary funding to hasten their pandemic recovery process as conventional financing sources run dry. As a result, African countries now demonstrate a previously unheard-of desire to collaborate with other developing nations like Russia or India.

It is true that the majority of the continent has continued to face economic hardship, civil instability, famine, and corruption over the previous two years. Yet, Africa is set to emerge as the new engine of global growth. This is primarily a result of its increased capacity for spending, which is aided by the growth of the middle class and capital inflows. Without accounting for the pandemic's effects, the continent's GDP has increased by about three times in the last two decades. Africa currently boasts the world's second-fastest growth rate, trailing only Asia. In short, the growth rate of Africa will determine the global growth rate.

Indeed, today many of the fastest-growing economies in the world are found in Africa. As a continent, it reached an overall GDP of $2.4 trillion. With a median age of 19, it is also a very young continent. Africa will make up around a quarter of the global labour force and consumer market by 2030. Therefore, Africa's potential for increased economic growth is very high if adequately reaped. But in order to do it, African nations must build on the decades' worth of laborious development progress. And in this journey, Africa needs partners, not bosses.

India's contribution to Africa's reconstruction may be crucial in this scenario. India's relations with Africa have developed organically and through participative methods. Initiatives to build capacity, lines of credit, grant funding, minor development projects, technical advice, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and military collaboration have been the main pillars of India's development partnership with Africa.

It is true that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration has been demonstrating a remarkable resolve to cement India's historical tie with the continent. However, this does not indicate any policy rupture. Africa has always been given the necessary priority in India's foreign policy. More than 35 outbound travels by the president, vice president, and prime minister to different African countries have taken place since his government came to power. Without question, there has never been a stronger bond between India and Africa. And while both continents seek to recover sustainably from the Covid-19 pandemic, this offers another opportunity to enhance their relationship.

This alliance was partly formalised because of the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS). The IAFS has grown to become one of African leaders' biggest regular diplomatic gatherings since its founding in 2008. IAFS has had three iterations, held in India in 2008, Ethiopia in 2011, and India in 2015. The 2015 Summit was a historical milestone attended by all 54 African countries. Due to the Covid epidemic, the IAFS 4, initially slated for 2021, has been postponed and will now happen sometime in early 2023. The African Union (AU) and the Indian government are currently discussing the choice of country for the event as part of the consultative process.

Two of the world's most rapid economic growth tales are currently being experienced by the economies of Africa and India. The cornerstone for India's partnership with Africa is outlined in the Kampala Principles, which Prime Minister Modi announced in the Ugandan parliament in 2018. Undoubtedly, whether the upcoming decade will be Africa's will depend on how well the region's leaders can handle its policies.

On February 24, Russia began its air and missile assaults in Ukraine's Donbas area, which later escalated into a full-fledged war. As the metastasising war completes ten months, very soon, we may look at the war in terms of years and not months. For Russia, this is a vital war to be won, and it doesn't matter how long it lasts. The question that is being asked is whether the world is witnessing the emergence of a new world order which will have much less USA and European influence in it. Also, what position will Africa have in this new world order, and who would be its allies? And in this perplexing geopolitical scenario, India and Africa's friendship emerges as quintessential to the new world order.

[1] The author is a Research Associate with the Vivekananda International Foundation and doctoral scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University