Monday, July 11, 2011

Glimpses of Modern India's economic engagement with reviving Africa

Images are considered as powerful expressions of life, this is especially true in the case of Africa - Kevin Carter's photo of a vulture patiently watching a starving Sudanese child to die shocked soul of humanity. Over time stories of poverty and war brought much help to Africa; unfortunately it didn’t prove enough to guarantee peace and economic progress. Many countries fell in to the trap of never ending war and ethnic cleansing. Without enough foreign troops it was difficult to control the fighting war lords. Slowly but steadily Africa, rich in minerals and oils, become synonym for poverty, war crimes, refuge crisis, inter/intra religious conflicts, child soldiers, anarchy (in Somalia and some other countries), oil curse, blood diamonds, terrorism, horrible rape stories (from Congo) etc

However some good news are also coming out of the continent - like the economic growth of South Africa, return of elected leader in Ivory Coast, democratic elections in Nigeria, awareness about environmental protection in Tanzania, birth of a new nation - South Sudan, improvements in reducing the growth rate of AIDS etc.

At present, as the developed economies are experiencing slow down and the requirement for the resources are rising in the emerging markets, the pattern of foreign involvement in Africa also changed. Emerging markets are eager to associate themselves with Africa - to utilize the drops of oil and minerals coming from continent. As usual China wasted no time in establishing themselves in the continent. Chinese firms - backed by government - already made considerable inroads. Their 'no string attached' aid find much more favour among the rulers, as compared to the western aid which usually come with strict conditions. After all there is no need for improving administration as a pre-requirement for the majority of the Chinese aid.

Now India is also back in Africa after a long sleep. Its like the story of Rip Van Winkle, in which he is going back to home after a long sleep of 20 years only to find out that his town no longer looks the same. The difference between this story and that of India's one is, we slept for a longer time. When woke up we were as surprised as Charles Dodgson's Alice in the Wonderland. Almost all of the African countries got rid of their colonial rulers, but the irony is independence didn't results in democracy or peace. Now the Arab spring -  which already pulled down two regimes - offering some hope to the rest of the continent. However it is yet to see how far this will inspire the people from other parts of continent. Only time can tell.

It is in this situation we have to look in to the second India-Africa forum summit held in Addis Ababa. In which New Delhi promised,

$5bn line of credit for developmental projects over next three years,
$700mn for new institutions and training programs,
$300mn for a new rail line,
22,000 total scholarships for next three years,
India- Africa virtual university with 10,000 new scholarships,
900 training slots under IETC,
$2mn for African Union mission in Somalia,
Food processing cluster and integrated textiles cluster,
India - Africa University for life and earth sciences,
Centre for medium range whether forecasting.

Here the amount allocated to education required special attention. Education is the key for growth in any society. This will not only enable Africa to achieve progress in the future but also tighten the ties with India. We have to make sure that the students coming to India through scholarships will be able to lead their respective nations towards progress, democracy etc and will serve as a cultural bridge between Africa and India.

Both India and China are investing heavily in African mines, oil fields, infrastructure, power generation etc. This will certainly bring the much needed capital to African nations. But the question is what will happen to this capital? Will it simply end up - as another form of oil curse - filling the coffers of war lords? It is important for Africans to make sure that, they will not end up as a proof for Samuel Huntington's 'Clash of civilizations' theorem. At the same time both India and China have the duty to help them to form a new economy, not propping up another oligarchy.

Whatever be our commitment, it should improve the living conditions of common people in the continent. Africa saw more than enough dictatorships, colonial rulers, rising oil prices, draughts, severe famines etc. We should not fall in to the trap of propping up or supporting some dictatorships which Africans themselves don't like to have. Today or tomorrow, when Africans think about the powers who contributed to their uplift and progress, we have to make sure that our nation stands top in the list.


1 comment:

  1. nice article...But do you think that it will be prudent for India to give so much amount to Africa when several millions of its own people are under severe poverty...dont you think that india should concentrate more to elevate its own people from poverty?