Modi's visit to Africa

In order to strengthen India’s economic linkages, PM Mozdi recently travelled to four African nations, a direct indication of India’s shifting policy towards Africa and projecting itself as a trusted strategic partner of the continent.

As it is evident that over the coming decade, global security challenges will necessitate combined efforts by states to manage threats and maximize opportunities. Among the most significant challenges that India and Africa will face in particular, are reforms in global governance institutions, maritime security threats in the Indian Ocean, energy insecurity and the rise of extremism and terrorism.

Both in his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat and during his general election campaign, Modi put the need for economic reform and growth at the centre in order to make India more competitive and to bolster employment. Therefore Africa is a region that India cannot afford to ignore. Six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are located in Africa. Huge complementarities exist to strengthen bilateral collaboration in diverse areas and upgrade India-Africa engagement.

Modi visited four African countries- Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya-from July 7 to 11, 2016. This is his second tour to Africa. Last year, he had visited Seychelles and Mauritius.

The government’s policy to deepen ties with African nations was initiated by two recent high-ranking visits by Indian leaders. President Pranab Mukherjee traveled to Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Namibia in West Africa from June 12 to 17 and Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari visited Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa from May 30 to June 3. Modi’s visit to South and East Africa represents an attempt to reach out to all parts of Africa.

The recent visit added to the number of initiatives that have been taken by the Prime Minister to strengthen ties with African countries.

In March 2015, Modi visited Seychelles and Mauritius, signalling India’s intent to enhance ties with the African Indian Ocean Rim Countries. During the visit, he signed landmark agreements to build security ties with these island states.

A common theme has emerged in Modi’s strategy in Africa. Similar to Mauritius and the Seychelles, the four countries included in the 2016 tour are located within the Indian Ocean sphere of influence with significant Indian Diaspora. The tour demonstrates an expansion of Modi’s initial forays into strengthening India-Africa partnerships in and around the Indian Ocean.

Trading partner

India is Africa’s fourth largest trading partner, with trade turnover of $72 billion in 2014-15. India has invested around $32 billion in the continent. The basket of goods imported from Africa is dominated by commodities, particularly crude oil, gas, pulses and lentils, leather, gold, and other metals, all of which are of critical importance to the Indian economy and people. India exports manufactured products like medicines, automobiles, two-wheelers, iron and steel products, plastics, machinery and engineering products, as well as refined petroleum products. Africa represents a new and growing export market. This is significant as India’s traditional export destinations in Europe and North America are declining.

Africa’s partnership and active engagement is crucial for progress in global and regional issues. Support from African countries is critical while negotiating subjects like India’s bid for permanent UN Security Council seat, UN reforms, and climate change.

Modi’s recent visit to Africa is timely and portentous. It will strengthen political, strategic, security, economic, and people-to-people ties with these countries and also with the whole continent. This will give an impetus to security, stability, peace and prosperity in the region and the world.

Modi’s trips to Mozambique and Kenya were the first prime ministerial visits to these two countries in 34 and 35 years respectively. The visit has given a fresh dimension to India’s outreach to Africa in terms of food and energy security and defence and maritime cooperation.

At the diplomatic level, the visits to the four countries were well-designed and comprehensive in nature. The endeavor throughout was to hold dialogues not only with the government but also to interact with business elites, universities, PIO communities and others.

Africans of Indian descent help foster Africa-India economic and cultural relations. Many are involved in private entrepreneurship and set up businesses between Africa and India in various economic sectors. They facilitate access to African markets for Indian companies.

The visit signals not only an extension of India’s influence in the Indian Ocean region, but also a deepening and strengthening of India-Africa partnerships and agreements. The recent visit provided a glimpse into the evolving principles of the Modi doctrine and its role in shaping India-Africa affairs.

Trade and economic relations as well as energy ties form the bedrock of multi-faceted links between India and these four nations. Bilateral trade in 2014-15 with Tanzania was $4 billion, with Kenya $4.3 billion, with South Africa around $12 billion, and with Mozambique around $2.4 billion. The major Indian exports to the four countries include drugs and pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, petroleum products, textiles, and engineering goods while imports consist of gold, cashew, timber, spices, minerals, and coal.

Out of around $32 billion in total Indian investment on the African continent, Mozambique alone accounts for $8 billion and Tanzania $3 billion, with most investments in the energy sector. Indian companies have invested heavily in coal and gas sectors in Mozambique and in natural gas in Tanzania. Several large and iconic Indian companies like Tata Group, OVL, OIL, JSPL, JSW, Reliance, Mahindra, Ranbaxy, Cipla and many more are active in these countries.

His stops at Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya were accompanied by discussions on securing lines of coal and natural gas and funding capacity-building in energy production. In Tanzania and Mozambique, in particular, there were discussions on enhancing the export of pulses to India to meet a demand shortfall. As he travelled along the southern coast of Africa, PM Modi spoke to his hosts in detail about shoring up maritime ties as part of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), and linking India’s own “Sagar-Mala” outreach for Indian Ocean islands with the South Africa-authored “Operation Phakisa”, that focuses on Africa’s combined strengths in blue economies and ocean governance.

The visit was aimed at enhancing ties with that continent, particularly in the economic sphere and people-to-people contacts. The focus of the visit was deepening cooperation in hydrocarbons, maritime security, trade and investment, agriculture and food.
The agreements signed with Mozambique and Tanzania for import of pulses have given a significant boost to India’s food security as well as to the welfare of African farmers.

With India gifting a Bhabhatron, a state-of-the-art cancer therapy machine, to Tanzania and Kenya, health care is another area of India’s engagement with Africa.

India is concentrating on building cancer hospitals and contributing medical equipment. In his joint press conference with Modi on Monday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also said that India would help set up a pharmaceutical company in Kenya to manufacture drugs.

Energy security is another area where India will look to Africa with Mozambique being the third biggest supplier of natural gas after Qatar and Australia and Tanzania emerging as a gas giant with a series of finds since 2011.

In Tanzania, new President John Magufuli, who took charge last November, has launched several initiatives in areas close to Modi’s own heart, like cleanliness, combating corruption, climate change, and protecting human security. India has offered USD 92 million Line of Credit to Tanzania for a key water supply project and signed five agreements with it.

Showcasing India as an attractive destination for defence production, the Prime Minister also sought deeper collaboration in the sector with South Africa, a major arms exporter, even as he thanked it for supporting India’s bid for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Experts who diligently analyze the joint statements issued during the visits will testify that India-Africa relations have been shifting their focus from the past history to future vision, from purely political issues to largely questions of solid economic and development cooperation, and from hesitation to confidence in forging partnerships in security and the defence sector. References to defence cooperation, maritime security and synergy on cyber security and in countering terrorism, drug trafficking etc., are fairly fresh elements in the African context.

Finally, a convergence of perspectives on several regional issues-BRICS and IBSA in Pretoria, India’s support for Tanzania’s role in EAC in Dar es Salaam, and the agreement to strengthen IORA in both Nairobi and Pretoria-also holds great significance.

The recent African tour can be called a productive visit. Its long-term benefits will depend, as always, on the will and capacity of those responsible, in the governments and beyond, to ensure effective follow-up measures. If they take the desired initiative, mutual benefit is assured.

Strong initiative

To establish a special connection between India and Africa, Modi hosted the third India-Africa Forum Summit in October 2015. In a break from past tradition, he invited the Heads of State of all 54 African countries to participate in the summit. During the Summit, Modi reaffirmed that development cooperation was the cornerstone of the India Africa partnership and offered an additional USD10 billion concessional credit over the next five years. He has also offered a grant of USD 600 million and created an India-Africa development fund of USD 10 million. He announced that India’s cooperation will be in line with the objectives set by the Agenda 2063 initiative of the African countries.
In a bid to enhance agricultural cooperation, Modi called for collaboration for improving farming techniques, water management and increasing investments in the agri-business and food processing industry. Acknowledging the lack of energy access in Africa, he sought to intensify cooperation in renewable energy sources. He also mooted the idea of a global solar alliance at the summit.

In view of the importance of the blue economy for sustainable economic development, Modi called for greater cooperation in this field as well. Given the African focus on education and skills enhancement, he pledged 50,000 scholarships for African students over the next five years. Finally, since security and development are closely linked, he announced support for African efforts in diverse fields such as peacekeeping training, counter-terrorism, maritime, space and cyber security.

Modi government has been trying to convince African countries that India is interested in forging a long term partnership that will help in promoting sustainable development, security and a better rapport between the people of India and Africa.

Though the talks of competition between India and China in Africa is rising but it doesn’t necessarily result in cutthroat rivalry as their increasing presence in the African continent can be complementary to each other. As an emerging power, it is reasonable for India to strengthen its bilateral ties with African countries. It would be unfair at the moment to predict an absolute competition mode considering that the complementary features between China and India are very obvious as China is good at providing investment and technology while India has been doing well in people-to-people interactions and infrastructure development. Any rivalries aside, Africa is now very much a part of international relations, economic cooperation, and international trade. Even African countries are keen to diversify their partnerships, to reap the advantages these new interactions could offer.

However, for India the Indian Ocean is undoubtedly the most important part of India’s emerging maritime strategy, and in the quest to secure its interest in the strategic ocean, India aims to expand its security profile in East Africa.

The littorals of East Africa serve as a gateway to the wider Indian Ocean Region. This region not only hosts large energy reserves, but also is home to some of the world’s most important strategic waterways and congested maritime chokepoints. Through these chokepoints, more than 50 percent of Africa’s maritime energy trade passes.

Despite the fact that India has historically enjoyed excellent cultural and economic relations with the East African nations of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa, it has somewhat failed to project itself as a maritime security provider in the extended region.  There now exists a unique opportunity for India in this regard, as the strategic and economic interests of all regional stakeholders converge in the Indian Ocean Region. As India seeks to create a framework for cooperation in the maritime security domain, this convergence of strategic interests will act as the driving force.