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Africa Day Round Table on the theme “India’s G20 Presidency: Furthering India- Africa Ties”

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  • May 23, 2023
    Round Table

    The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised an Africa Day Roundtable on the theme “India’s G20 Presidency: Furthering India-Africa Ties” on 23 May 2023 between 11:00 to 13:00 hrs IST in MP-IDSA Auditorium as a Think20 (T20) side event. The opening remarks were delivered by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA & T20 Chair for India’s G20 Presidency. The special remarks were delivered by H.E. Mr. Joel Sibusiso Ndebele, High Commissioner of South Africa to India; H.E. Mr. Haymandoyal Dillum, High Commissioner of Mauritius to India and Mr. Sherif Elgammal, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt to India. Ambassador Chinoy chaired the panel discussion. The panellists included Ms. Ruchita Beri, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Mr. S Kuppuswamy, Mr. Tarun Sharma, Ms.Shivali Lawale, Dr. Nivedita Ray. The concluding remarks was delivered by H.E. Mr. Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam, Ambassador of Eritrea to India, Dean of Diplomatic Corps, India. Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA proposed the Vote of Thanks. The roundtable was attended by MP-IDSA scholars, interns, MP-IDSA members and guest attendees, including officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and members of various think tanks and universities.

    Executive Summary

    The Roundtable brought out perceptive inputs on the theme “India’s G20 Presidency: Furthering India-Africa Ties”. Ambassadors, High Commissioners of African countries to India, eminent scholars, and experts from India were in attendance.  The event emphasised the importance of India-Africa relations and maintaining pan-African interactions. South-South collaboration was highlighted, particularly in clean technology, climate-resilient cultivation, gender equality, and democratising global institutions. The significance of institutionalised mechanisms like the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) and India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD) in fostering India-Africa relations was reiterated.

    Experts in the panel discussion emphasised Africa's potential, India's consultative partnership, and collaboration in trade, healthcare, infrastructure, and agriculture. They discussed initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable. The panellists proposed strategies to further enhance India-Africa Partnership, including elevating the African Union to a G20 member, hosting the India Africa Forum Summit, and promoting student exchange programs.

    The roundtable aimed to strengthen India-Africa ties through collaboration, mutual respect, shared values, inclusive growth, sustainable development, and cooperation in addressing global challenges for a promising future.

    Detailed Report

    Inaugural Session

    The event commenced with opening remarks by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy (Director General, MP-IDSA). At the outset, he acknowledged the distinguished speakers and guests for their presence and warmly welcomed all the participants. He mentioned that MP-IDSA has been organizing the Africa Day Roundtable for last seven years, showcasing its commitment to Africa. Ambassador Chinoy highlighted India's historical ties, maritime connections, and the role of diaspora vis-a-vis the African continent.

    He underscored India's G20 Presidency is the presidency of the Global South and recalled Prime Minister Modi's thoughts at the Voice of Global South Summit. He also assessed India's G20 Presidency as the first ever G20 with a human-centric approach to solving global problems. He highlighted the T20's role in connecting institutions and individuals worldwide to share views and suggestions in line with India's G20 theme, "One Earth, One Family, One Future."

    Ambassador Chinoy acknowledged the webinar's timely and significant theme, addressing critical issues of the Global South. He highlighted topics such as macroeconomics, development, healthcare, climate change, green transition, and reform of international financial and multilateral institutions. He emphasised the responsibility of developed countries to provide capital and technology for a rapid green transition to combat global warming. Furthermore, he mentioned India's focus on inclusivity and achieving gender equality, aligning with the views of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Amb. Chinoy highlighted the challenges in reaching a consensus due to dispersed power globally. He mentioned the need for revitalizing and democratising multilateral institutions to address global issues. He identified common challenges faced by the Global South, including poverty, climate change, and food and energy insecurity.

    He stated that under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has carried out unprecedented outreach and engagement with Africa, including institutionalising the India-Africa Defence Ministers Conclave and launching of India-Africa Security Fellowship Programme at MP-IDSA .

    Finally, Amb. Chinoy emphasised that India-Africa partnership is built on equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. He mentioned India’s expanding defence engagements with several African nations. He was convinced that strong relations between India and Africa would strengthen multipolarity. He hoped the discussion would contribute to a shared effort to create a more promising future.

    H.E. Mr. Joel Sibusiso Ndebele (High Commissioner of South Africa to India began his special remarks by underscoring the importance of Africa Day, commemorating the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) signing on 25 May 1963. It celebrates Africa's liberation from colonialism and apartheid and rejects colonial or imperialist domination. He discussed the establishment of the African Union (AU) in 2002, as well as its predecessor, the OAU, founded in 1963, and described the AU as the fulfillment of the African goal of Pan-Africanism, now commemorating 20 years.

    He enumerated South Africa’s structural and socio-economic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, he iterated the country’s willingness to engage with those committed to shared prosperity and rule-based order. He opined that India's G20 Presidency commitment to "One Earth, One Family" resonates in Africa. The High Commissioner identified four crucial areas of cooperation in which India and Africa could work closely. One, supporting the ideas and vision of Agenda 2063 with special attention to Sustainable Development Goals and green transition. Two, continued support for the G20 partnership with Africa. Three, emphasising the G20's initiatives on industrialisation in Africa. He remarked that the South African administration is looking for multilateral cooperation through BRICS and harnessing inclusive growth for all, as aligned with India's views. Four, need to prioritise women empowerment. In conclusion, he acknowledged that the G20, under India's Presidency, could play a catalytic role in ensuring multilateral rules and conduct for a peaceful and prosperous Africa.

    H.E. Mr. Haymandoyal Dillum (High Commissioner of Mauritius to India) began his remarks by appreciating MP-IDSA's multidisciplinary approach to advancing India's G20 vision. He stated that under India's presidency, the G20 had taken a new turn in ensuring more inclusivity and raising concerns about the Global South on the international platform. The rallying point in India-Africa relations is India's continued support for African liberation and the end of racial struggle. He highlighted that since India-Africa relations are rooted in friendship, mutual respect, and cooperation, it has paved the way for a solid political and economic partnership.

    He emphasised that the successive India-Africa Summits have fostered enhanced cooperation in various areas such as political engagement, economic collaboration, development initiatives, information technology, and climate change. He praised India for providing African countries with tremendous help during the pandemic through its signature "Vaccine Maitri" campaign and its dedication to obtaining medications, food, and financial aid. He argued that the lack of finance and technology limits Africa's ability to grow and develop, despite the continent's huge landmass, the wealth of raw materials, availability of labour, and vibrant leadership. Thus, he urged for the adoption of a new trade paradigm in the future that is focused on "glocalisation" and regional interests. He added that Mauritius has been instrumental in creating special economic zones to support an integrated commerce chain between India, Mauritius, and Africa. He concluded by quoting, "If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together".

    Mr. Sherif Elgammal (Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt to India) began by emphasising that India's G20 Presidency will be successful. He commended India's G20 theme, "One, Earth, One Family, One Future, " which aligns well with Egypt's shared vision in COP27. India and Egypt, two of the oldest civilisations in the world, have a long history of close engagement. Historically, trade cooperation flourished along the banks of the rivers Nile and Indus, creating a strong sense of shared culture and identity. 

    He mentioned that India and Egypt elevated their bilateral ties to a strategic partnership in January 2023 to further their relations. Despite global challenges, bilateral trade cooperation and joint investment have soared in the last few years. Mr. Elagammal further highlighted the strong commercial partnership between Egypt and India, with bilateral trade reaching USD 7.26 billion in 2021-22. Indian businesses have significantly invested in Egypt's infrastructure, electricity, and telecommunications. He concluded by outlining the enormous potential for furthering the expansion of economic and commercial ties between the two countries and, subsequently, to the African continent. 

    Panel Discussion

    The panel discussion was chaired by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy (Director General, MP-IDSA.

    Ms. Ruchita Beri (Consultant, Africa, LAC, and UN Centre, MP-IDSA) highlighted the significance of Africa and the potential for strengthening India-Africa ties during India's G20 Presidency. She emphasised four key points: the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), making Africa the largest free trade zone in the world, Africa's young population as a crucial resource for global economic growth, the continent's vast uncultivated arable land and its impact on global food security, and the abundance of resources needed for the green transition. Ms. Beri acknowledged the challenges faced by African countries but remains optimistic about Africa's future. She further emphasised India's consultative partnership with African nations and how it aligns with the G20 priorities of climate change, inclusive growth, and multilateralism.

    Ms Beri also highlighted Africa's efforts in renewable energy innovation and progress in women empowerment, which provide opportunities for collaboration between India and African countries. She underscored the importance of India's G20 Presidency in strengthening relations with Africa, promoting the African Union as the 21st member of the G20, and called for the early hosting of the India Africa Forum Summit. Quoting former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, she highlighted historical similarities and potential for a distinct partnership between India and Africa. She expressed hope that India's G20 Presidency would enhance cooperation between the two.

    Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia presented a six-point formula for the India-Africa Partnership. He emphasised the historical significance, shared values, and common interests that enrich the relationship. First, implementation of initiatives announced by the Prime Minister at the Voice of the Global South Summit before G20 Summit. He stressed the importance of implementing these initiatives at least 100 days before the Delhi Summit, as they require planning and additional budgetary resources. Second, the Ambassador advocated the elevation of the African Union from a guest to a member of the G20. While expressing support from major leaders and powers, he called for a clear decision on this matter in the Delhi Declaration of the Summit. Third, Ambassador Bhatia highlighted the urgent need for the fourth India Africa Forum Summit. He suggested it should take place after the G20 Summit, within the window of October or November. This would accelerate the positive work done during the previous summits and strengthen bilateral relations. Fourth, the Ambassador called upon the African Union to make a prompt decision to establish diplomatic representation in Delhi. While acknowledging the efforts of African Ambassadors, he stressed the necessity of having a pan-African voice and representation to facilitate discussions on the African continent. Fifth, Ambassador Bhatia expressed his hope for greater representation of African diplomats, businesspeople, students, and tourists in India. He urged African diplomats to visit Indian universities, think tanks, and institutions to address the growing demand for knowledge and information on Africa. Amb. Bhatia concluded by suggesting that India and Africa promote student exchange programmes, emphasising the necessity of expanding the number of African students in India and vice versa.

    Mr. S. Kuppuswamy, Advisor, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, provided valuable private-sector perspectives. He highlighted the importance of a concerted approach by India and the G20 Forum in dealing with ongoing projects in Africa, ensuring that loan disbursements are not affected. He underscored that India has taken an integrated development approach for Africa, focusing on the four pillars of the economy: agriculture, infrastructure, housing, and healthcare. Regarding housing, he emphasised that India alone cannot bridge the widening gap in housing demand and supply in Africa, and suggested that all G20 countries pool their resources to find a solution. In healthcare, he stressed the need for multi-speciality hospitals and recommended that India and collaborating countries not only provide equipment and infrastructure but also bridge the gap in working capital for the first five years. This would ensure the hospitals can run without interruption and stabilise their operations. In agriculture, he mentioned India's efforts to assist Africa with irrigation, water treatment equipment, and scaling up the production of various crops. He suggested that G20 countries, including Japan, Korea, and France, could provide additional support. Lastly, he highlighted the importance of infrastructure development in Africa to utilise its raw materials and contribute to the global economy. He proposed the integrated development of Africa as the theme for G20 countries, with India as the fulcrum.

    Mr. Tarun Sharma, Deputy Managing Director of the Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank), highlighted several key points in his statement regarding the India-Africa Partnership. He emphasised the significance of the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable, co-chaired by the IMF, World Bank, and India, which aims to create mechanisms for debt sustainability and supplement existing frameworks. He discussed the Exim Bank's role in supporting sustainable growth in Africa through lines of credit in various sectors such as connectivity, power generation, manufacturing, agriculture, and water supply. He also mentioned Exim Bank's focus on sustainability, particularly in environmental, social, and governance, and its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the energy transition. Trade assistance and financing were identified as critical areas, with Exim Bank implementing a program to support incremental trade between African countries and India. He highlighted the importance of both physical and digital connectivity, with projects and initiatives supporting these aspects. Lastly, he mentioned India's support for e-governance and digital services in Africa, drawing from successful experiences in India.

    Dr. Nivedita Ray (ICWA Director of Research), in her remarks on Africa Day, highlighted the significance of the year 2023 for both Africa and India. She mentioned that it marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the OAU (Organization of African Unity) and the completion of the 10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 in Africa. She also highlighted the importance of India's G20 presidency and its role in promoting India-Africa ties through the India-Africa Forum Summit and the G20. Dr. Ray raised two main points: the need for better representation of African priorities and concerns within the G20 and the alignment of G20 priorities with Africa's Agenda 2063. She noted the importance of giving voice to African countries and their aspirations, suggesting that the African Union should become a member of the G20 to ensure a more representative platform. Furthermore, she called for aligning G20 priorities with the projects outlined in Africa's Agenda 2063, such as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, silencing the guns by 2030, extending the Pan-Africa e-network, and developing the Africa Virtual University. Dr. Ray also emphasised the need for India's technical expertise and support in realising these projects and ensuring their success.  She concluded by underscoring India's active role in advancing Africa's agenda within the G20 and aligning priorities for sustainable development.

    Ms. Shivali Lawale (Director, Symbiosis School of International Studies) began her remarks by highlighting the Lifestyle for Environment initiative (LiFE) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 and discussed the need for progress at the grassroots level. She commended the multi-stakeholder approach adopted by the G20 Presidency and emphasised the importance of youth engagement, particularly in countries like India, Nigeria, and Egypt. She underlined the importance of sustainable agriculture, stressing the need to safeguard and sustain indigenous knowledge systems in agriculture from both India and African countries. She suggested using technology to create a repository of oral traditions for future generations.

    Ms. Lawale also underlined the significance of sustainable consumption, particularly among the large youth population. They encouraged ethical consumption patterns and highlighted the importance of recycling and upcycling, which have caught the attention of young people globally. Regarding sustainable energy, she cited the example of the Solar Alliance launched by India and France, which includes many African countries. She also suggested focusing on research and development collaborations, dual degree programs, and joint PhDs in sustainable consumption, agriculture, and energy.

    During the Q/A session, Ambassador Bhatia and H.E. Mr. Haymandoyal Dillum discussed the potential role of India in engaging with African nations in sustainable development programs through partnerships, knowledge sharing, financial assistance, people-to-people exchanges, regional integration, and research collaboration. By adopting a collaborative approach, India can leverage its expertise, resources, and experiences in sustainable development to support African nations in their development goals. Furthermore, this collaborative model promotes mutual development and strengthens bilateral relations between India and African contries.

    Concluding Session

    H.E. Mr. Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam (Ambassador of Eritrea to India and Dean of Diplomatic Corps, India) made the concluding remarks. He reiterated that the main aim of South-South cooperation is to provide a framework for collaboration among the countries of the global south in political, economic, social, environmental, and technological areas. In addition to congratulating India on heading the G20, Ambassador Woldemariam emphasised that India's leadership position on the international stage offers humanity a justice-driven approach to addressing persistent problems. He stressed that Africa favoured the proposed global agenda, built on the four R's of respect, response, recognition, and reform. He believed that the G20, led by India, would become the authentic voice for the African continent.

    Maj Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA proposed the Vote of Thanks. He underlined that the opportunity for India and Africa to deepen their strategic partnership is enormous, given India's G20 chairmanship. He emphasised that together, India and Africa can overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and create a better future for their people by combining their different talents and experiences. He concluded by underscoring that the discussion had been beneficial and reflected the ambitions of the Global South as a whole.

    The report was prepared by Mr. Mohanasakthivel J, Research Analyst, Africa, LAC, and UN Centre, MP-IDSA and Ms. Sneha M, Research Analyst, South Asia Centre, MP-IDSA.