FEATURED | The India-Africa Forum Summit 2015 : Key Takeaways by Akanksha Sharma
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FEATURED | The India-Africa Forum Summit 2015 : Key Takeaways by Akanksha Sharma

By Akanksha Sharma

The India Africa Forum Summit 2015, which was held in New Delhi and attended by representatives of all 54 African countries came to an end on 30th October 2015. The summit was a diplomatic coup d’état for India, being the largest congregation of foreign public figures here since the Non-Aligned Summit in 1983. The summit saw meetings between the senior officials, foreign ministers and bilateral meetings between PM Modi and the heads of states of 20 African countries. This summit has brought into limelight, relations between India, a rising economic giant and the resource-rich African continent, that powers around the world are trying to court. This summit happened at a time when India is also actively trying to stimulate its economic growth through buzz-worthy initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’ and ‘Skill India’ among others. 

FEATURED | The India-Africa Forum Summit 2015 : Key Takeaways by Akanksha Sharma

The summit was a significant gesture for demonstrating India’s commitment to engage holistically with the African continent. The first major outcome of the summit was the adoption of the Delhi Declaration 2015 and the India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation. One major positive highlight of the declaration is that it lays emphasis on monitoring and evaluation. The execution of various India-Africa initiatives will be monitored on a regular basis so as to ensure their completion within the specified deadlines. The declaration earmarks a number of areas for cooperation, till the next IASF in 2020. Some of the significant areas of cooperation are- matters of international governance, commerce and counter-terrorism. 

India hopes to get a seat among the permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC). It utilized the platform of this summit to encourage cooperation of African countries in supporting the reform of the permanent members of the UNSC. Both PM Modi and External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj expressed their strong displeasure about the anomaly that neither India nor any of the African countries are among the permanent members of the UNSC. Thus, the summit was a platform for a collective call for reform and more democratic representation among international institutions and instruments of governance. The Delhi Declaration further emphasized the need for quick implementation of the UN General Assembly Decision 69/560, based on the common aspirations of both India and Africa.

Commerce was also a major area that was highlighted during the forum. In 2014, trade between India and Africa was 70 billion USD, a significant figure; although one that could be better targeted as well as improved. India has put a 10 billion USD credit line on the table for Africa. This is not a top-down donor initiative but rather a strategic move that India will benefit from as well. Under the Merchandise Exports from India (MEIS), the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has provided a stimulus to the Indian export industry by including textiles, ready-made garments and made-ups under exports to African countries. This was a necessary step as merchandise exports have been falling steadily in India. In order to increase economic growth in this realm, India must also direct its attention to other regions of Africa too, apart from the traditional and historical favourites of East Africa and South Africa.

Another key area of cooperation that emerged during the summit is combating terrorism. Terrorism is a major crisis plaguing the world today. It is an obstacle to peaceful living, growth and development. India and Africa are highly vulnerable to the scourge of terrorism. Terrorist outfits such as al-Shabab and Boko Haram have been growing in East Africa and Nigeria respectively. India is in danger of becoming victim to the increasing waves of radicalisation by organisations such as ISIS and terror outfits based in Pakistan. In today’s globalised world mobility is on the rise , necessitating the close cooperation of India and Africa in carrying out counter-terrorism efforts The Delhi declaration has urged India and Africa to provide full support for UN counter terrorism mechanisms as well as UNSC sanctions against terrorism.  

Beyond international governance, economic cooperation and counter terrorism initiatives highlighted above, there are areas that can be focused on to further India’s strategic interests.  One significant concern and industry of interest in Africa is the affordable healthcare industry. The health surge capacities of many countries in West Africa. India would benefit from directing its investments towards the provision of these facilities. Medical tourism could also be further promoted through advertising and PR campaigns about the facilities and technologies available in major Indian hospitals, highlighting the cost effectiveness of medical procedures. The education industry is another field which could be given a stimulus by positioning India as an up and coming educational destination. However, a more hospitable environment for African students studying in India needs to be created. And the media has a role to play in this, by dissipating stereotypes and generating awareness about African students through positive media messages. Another area that needs a great deal of improvement is the weak strength of the Indian Foreign Service. The IFS is understaffed and its current strength is not enough to ensure optimal engagement with all 54 African countries. 

Taking action on these fronts, complemented with India’s inherent advantages and strengths, vis-a-vis other countries in Africa appears to be the way forward. Some of India’s advantages with regards to interacting with Africa (compared to other countries) include its relatively neutral stance regarding the domestic politics of most of the African countries, its benign public image and perception in Africa, its innovations in telecom, advances in science and technology and its soft power projection capabilities. Optimal and strategic utilization of these advantages, coupled with a consistent application of diplomatic engagement to lobby for India’s interests in the continent will ensure a bright future trajectory for India-Africa relations.
About The Author:

Akanksha Sharma is an Independent International Affairs Analyst. She was previously Research Analyst with the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore. Her research interests include, but are not limited to International Relations in the Asia-Pacific and India’s Foreign Policy. She can be contacted via LinkedIn. Thomson Reuters ResearcherID : L-2076-2015

Cite This Article:

Akanksha, Sharma. "FEATURED | The India-Africa Forum Summit 2015 : Key Takeaways ." IndraStra. November 18, 2015. Vol 1, Issue 11, 0443 https://www.indrastra.com/2015/11/FEATUTED-India-Africa-Forum-Summit-2015-Key-Takeaways-by-Akanksha-Sharma-0443.html.|ISSN 2381-3652|


[i] Alex Vines, India's Interests at the Africa Forum Summit: From Deals to Delivery?, Newsweek

[ii] IANS, India, Africa's Delhi Declaration Seeks Decisive Push to UN Reforms

[iii] Kirtika Suneja, Commerce ministry firming up Africa-focused export strategy, The Economic Times | http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-11-02/news/67953423_1_merchandise-exports-foreign-trade-policy-african-countries