India- Africa Strategic Dialogue: Session IV: Bilateral Issues - Economic
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  • The session was chaired by Amb. (retd.) V. B. Soni, Chairman, Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (India) Pvt. Ltd. Speakers of the session were Ms. Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, National Director, South African Institute of International Affairs, South Africa, and Dr. Sachin Chaturvedi, Senior Fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, New Delhi, India.

    In his opening remarks, the Chair highlighted the importance of economic ties in a bilateral relation. Quoting an IMF world survey, he said that more than 5 per cent of the total population in the sub- Saharan Africa are Indians who have contributed in terms of human resources, knowledge resource, infrastructure development, and are now contributing in areas like energy and security as well. In India Africa Forum 2008 at Addis Ababa, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated that the “economic growth story is emerging from Africa.” India announced $5 billion as a line of credits and $ 700 billion for institution and capacity building. As far as the China factor is concerned, they have been advancing their interest aggressively in Africa by offering economic and political support, and an all-weather friendship. India started slow and is appreciated by the people of Africa for not behaving as mercantilists.

    In her presentation titled ‘Lions and Tigers: Africa and India’, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos tried to answer the question as to how the growing economic might of India along with the ‘Lions on Move’ concept in Africa be leveraged for development and inclusive growth. She argued that each country and its regional community must develop its own strategy and list of priorities for engaging with India. Commercial relations should be based on zero based tariffs. In order to leverage benefits, India must address the issue of barriers on investments and trade.

    According to the World Bank Report 2011 - Africa can be on the brink of an economic take off. The report suggests that Africa is the last frontier after China, India and Latin America. The demographics suggest that east and west Africa will grow rapidly; the urbanisation will be at a much faster pace, which is presently at 40 per cent in cities. The rising middle class of Africa, with nine countries accounting for three-fourth of the total consumer spending, is worth mentioning. By 2030, Africa's top 18 cities will have a combined spending of $ 1.3 trillion; the infrastructure development can be a key area of investment along with agriculture. Through her presentation she highlighted the scope of growth in Africa and how beneficial it will be for the Indian development plans.

    She also focused on how close are the bilateral and continental ties and ‘club’ relations- BRICs, IBSA, G-20 - between Africa and India, and how such forums are important for African developmental issues. They are the biggest and most diversified nations which have not found their true status in forums like Goldman Sach’s BRIC(s), and in Next 11.

    India and South Africa can collaborate and reap benefits from each other in energy and mineral sector, processing, infrastructure, health, nuclear commerce, human resource development and space engineering. It can be achieved through forums and agreements like IBSA Trust Fund, SADPA and Preferential Trade Agreements. She also suggested that India may use South Africa as a gateway to Africa. The two nations need to approach the African market jointly, and in return South Africa should get access to Indian markets of retail, wines, banking, Greenfield investment etc.

    Sachin Chaturvedi spoke on ‘Trade and Investments in India and Africa Relations: Trends and Prospects.’ He elaborated upon the dynamics of the policies followed by India in Africa which focuses on engagement with Africa in three spheres: Capacity Building and Skill Transfer, Trade, and Infrastructure Development. The investments in Africa have been made mainly in sectors like telecommunications, chemical and mining. During the first summit of the India Africa Forum, the New Delhi Declaration emphasised on the emerging global order with focus on multilateralism and South-South Cooperation and global governance reforms. He emphasized on the point that institution building is key to strengthening the relations with Africa. He shared the numerical data on how much the Government of India has invested in various projects. Some of the key projects he referred to are Africa e-connectivity project, capacity building project called Inspire which talks about giving one per cent of the state budget to scholars in science stream and also in the health and education sector to deal with the issue of rising percentage of AIDS, malaria, malnourishment etc.

    Report prepared by Soumya Tiwari, Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi