1] Crafting a unique partnership with Africa (GS 2 IR)

Context –

  • Foreign Minister S Jaishankar recently visited Kenya. New Delhi’s engagement with Africa has taken several forms, including projects funded by Indian lines of credit, capacity-building efforts, and cross-sector cooperation.
  • In the agricultural sector, India’s cooperation with African countries is growing. Agriculture is vital to Africa’s economy, with 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, employing over 60% of the workforce, and contributing for about 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP.
  • As this relationship transitions into the post-pandemic era, it is critical to prioritise and redirect resources into strengthening agricultural partnerships.
  • This is critical given its untapped potential, importance to global food security, financial prospects, and the need to provide viable alternatives to Chinese stakeholders’ growing involvement in the industry.

Overview of China’s Role –

  • China is one of Africa’s most important trading partners. It is also Africa’s most important creditor.
  • Its businesses dominate the region’s infrastructure market, and they’re now branching out into agri-infrastructure.
  • While access to Africa’s natural resources, undeveloped markets, and backing for the “One China Policy” are the key motivations of Chinese engagement with the continent, there are also other reasons at work.
  • Low-cost, labor-intensive manufacturing units are shifting from China to African industrial parks and economic zones developed by the Chinese.
  • Engineers from China who were interviewed stressed the importance of their activities in Africa in gaining worldwide experience in management, risk, and capital investments.
  • Chinese tech corporations are constructing vital telecommunications infrastructure, and venture capital funds are investing in African fintech companies.
  • Chinese companies are leveraging agri-tech in Zambia to fight conventional issues, such as using drone technology to combat the fall armyworm infestation.
  • Over 20 Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers (ATDCS) have been established across the continent, where Chinese agronomists are working on generating new crop types and raising crop yields.

India’s China challenge in Africa –

  • The exponential rise of China-Africa economic links, as well as Beijing’s emergence as a viable alternative to conventional western powers, has prompted a shift in opinions among many groups.
  • Governments and heads of state are recalibrating their strategies, media outlets are allocating more resources to on-the-ground reporting, and artists such as Kenya’s Michael Soi are employing satirical paintings to spark a conversation.
  • Simultaneously, with a rising, insular diaspora, unequal trade, impending debt, competition with local firms, and a negative reputation followed by stronger political and economical interlinkages, Africa-China ties are getting more complex.
  • The Chinese and African experts in ATDCs appear to work in silos. There appears to be a disconnect between talents transferred in China and the realities in Africa on occasion.
  • In some circumstances, the technology taught in China is not available locally, and in others, due to a lack of supporting resources, it is impossible to put lessons learned into practice.
  • Socio-cultural tensions are exacerbated by larger commercial farms run by Mandarin-speaking managers and the presence of small-scale Chinese farmers in local markets.

Takeaways for India –

  • Institutional and individual capacity-building initiatives such as the India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development in Malawi, soft loan extensions, machinery supply, farmland acquisition, and the presence of Indian entrepreneurs in the African agricultural ecosystem are all examples of India-Africa agricultural cooperation.
  • Over 6,00,000 hectares of land in Africa have been purchased by Indian farmers for commercial cultivation.
  • Another kind of collaboration in agriculture is provided by subnational entities. Consider the Kerala government’s attempt to meet its high demand for raw cashew nuts, which totals 8 lakh tonnes per year, with imports from Africa to supplement its existing production capacity of 0.83 lakh tonnes.
  • Incentivizing Indian enterprises to tap into African agribusiness value chains, as well as connecting Indian technology firms and startups with African partners, has promise.
  • The African agri-tech sector has seen the transformative potential of innovative and disruptive technologies, with the continent’s startup ecosystem growing by 110 percent between 2016 and 2018.

Conclusion –

  • For India to be successful, a detailed impact assessment of existing agricultural capacity-building projects is required.
  • While India’s Africa strategy is self-contained, it is crucial to be aware of China’s growing presence in the region. If Beijing’s strategy succeeds here, it might serve as a model for the rest of the world.
  • It’s worth noting, though, that notable African voices have stated that their own agency is frequently disregarded in global discussions on the matter.
  • In this regard, India has made a persistent effort to emphasise the development partnership’s alignment with African priorities.
  • As a result, it is critical that we work together to create a distinctive modern cooperation with Africa.


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