Crafting a unique partnership with Africa

  • IASbaba
  • July 6, 2021
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. 

Crafting a unique partnership with Africa

Context: Critical to its foreign policy matrix, New Delhi’s engagement with the African continent has been multifaceted.

India should prioritise and channel resources into augmenting its partnership with Africa in agriculture sector because:

  • Unexplored Potential: 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in African continent that provides huge potential for India to collaborate in Agricultural sector through supply of machinery, acquisition of farmlands, institutional & Individual capacity building etc.
  • Centrality to global food security: As Nations across the world faces dangers of declining agricultural productivity in the wake of Climate Change, Africa’s underdeveloped agriculture sector is a ray of hope for global food security.
  • Business prospects: Indian farmers have purchased over 6,00,000 hectares of land for commercial farming in Africa, which has scope for further investment. Also, Africa provides golden opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs in agri-tech sector (the sector enjoyed a 110% growth between 2016 and 2018)
  • Countering China: India’s engagement in Africa’s agriculture sector provides credible alternatives to the increasing involvement of Chinese stakeholders in the sector.

Analysing Chinese engagement

  • Biggest Economic Partner: China is among Africa’s largest trading partners. It is also Africa’s single biggest creditor. Its corporations dominate the region’s infrastructure market and are now entering the agri-infra sector.
  • Primary Drivers for China’s engagement with Africa: Access to Africa’s natural resources, its untapped markets and support for ‘One China Policy’ are primary drivers of Chinese engagement with the region.
  • Relocation Site for Chinese Firms: Chinese-built industrial parks and economic zones in Africa are attracting low-cost, labour-intensive manufacturing units that are relocating from China (as labour costs are increasing in China impacts the competitiveness of Chinese goods)
  • Learning Experience: Chinese operations in Africa are important to accumulate global experience in management, risk and capital investments. 
  • Building Brand China: Chinese are willing to overlook short-term profits in order to build ‘brand China’, but they want to dominate the market in the long term, which includes pushing Chinese standards in host countries. 
  • Alternate to traditional western powers: Beijing’s model, if successful in Africa, could be heralded as a replica for the larger global south. This will catapult China as leader of Global South weaning thee countries away from their dependence on USA.
  • Evolving Engagement in Africa’s agricultural landscape: Chinese firms are introducing agri-tech (drones), setting up Technology Demonstration centres (TDC), collaboration with locals on developing new crop varieties, skill training, ecological parks etc

What mistakes Chinese are committing in Africa which India should avoid repeating it?

  • Growing, insular Chinese diaspora in Africa
  • Lopsided trade
  • Looming debt
  • Competition with local businesses 
  • Chinese and African experts working in Agricultural TDCs are operating in silos leading to ineffective outcomes
  • Technology taught in China is not available locally.
  • Inability to implement lessons learnt due to the absence of supporting resources. 
  • Aggravating socio-cultural stresses due to larger commercial farms being run by Mandarin-speaking managers and the presence of small-scale Chinese farmers in local markets.

Way Ahead for India

  • While India’s Africa strategy exists independently, it is important to be cognisant of China’s increasing footprint in the region.
  • Prominent African voices have emphasised that their own agency is often overlooked in global discourse on the subject. India’s engagement should not lead to dilution of African agency.
  • India’s stand that the development partnership has to be in line with African priorities should be continued & should be showcased as an alternative to Chinese Model (Chinese priorities overtake Africa’s priorities) 

Connecting the dots:

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