Singh affirms India's faith in Africa

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By Theresa Mallinson

On Wednesday, May 25 afternoon Jean Ping, the chairperson of the AU Commission, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the chairperson of the AU, and President of Equitorial Guinea; and Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India held a brief press conference about the outcomes of the Second Africa-India Forum Summit.

“The adoption of two very important documents, namely, the Addis Abba Declaration and the Framework for Enhanced Cooperation will actually give a new impetus to the Africa-India partnership in the months and years to come, before the holding of the third summit in New Delhi in 2015 [sic],” said Ping. However, writing in The Hindu last week, Rajiv Bhatia stated: “It is to be hoped that the Addis Ababa Summit will try to break new ground. The easier option would be to make minor modifications in the Delhi Declaration of 2008.

The more challenging and also more desirable strategy would be to broaden the vision, adopt a future-oriented approach, and show clear political will to scale bigger heights.” The declaration has just been released, but with the final version of the enhanced framework for cooperation still to be made public, it remains to be seen whether the second option will become reality.

Much has been made during the summit of the credit lines that India will extend to Africa ($5 billion over the next three years, plus $700 million more to establish “new institutions and training programmes”), but Mbasago pointed out that the partnership works two ways. “I have already stated that cooperation should be mutually beneficial; Africa states do not only expect from India, but we also believe that we are able to assist India,” he said.  “We have dealt with several issues like the reform of the UN, in which India is a leader. [India] aspires to occupy a seat in the security council and... will be able to count on the support of Africa.” In return for Africa's support in this matter, Singh stated that: “Africa's efforts to find solutions within its own region will receive India's support.”

Question time raised some interesting issues, although the answers were, unsurprisingly, diplomatically vague. Manesh Chan, from INS, asked how the Africa-India partnership is different from the other partnerships Africa has with many countries around the world. In replying, Mbasago dodged the specific question, instead emphasising that Africa is interested in creating “multi-types of operations with those that are interested in assisting Africa”. He referred to the China-Africa and Turkey-Africa partnerships in particular.

Otto Bakano, from AFP, asked Singh: “What gives you confidence to invest in Africa, where some of its members are not politically stable and have certain hurdles to trade?” Singh answered philosophically: “I think there is an old saying... an act of investment is an act of faith. The people and the government of India have enough faith in the societies and governments of Africa that whatever temporary difficulties they may be facing now, they have the will, resources, and inclination to overcome [these].”

Singh's faith would be touching, if it weren't so naïve. It would be fair to say that many countries in Africa are not facing “temporary difficulties”, but complex problems with roots going back to the shape of post-independence politics; colonialism, and the struggle against it; and even further back. It'll take more than faith – and self-interested foreign investment – to fix them.

 

  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit
  • Africa-India Summit