India & Africa - Relations & Way Forward

Posted in Finance Articles, Total Reads: 397 , Published on 16 November 2015

It has been the “low for the mighty”, “poor for the rich” for the ages. It is because of the fact that mighty has the power to dominate the submissive and use it for its benefit. It’s not new to us. History has been the biggest example for this with the advent of colonisation and subsequently slave labour all proving the same. There has always been cases of talent houses being pulled from deprived countries to serve the developed ones. Even in our own ancient history, when the East India Company ruled over India, skilled people were pulled from drains of India to the high rise buildings of United Kingdom. This has been the trend which has remain unchanged over the past couple of years.

Unfortunately, in the case of India this serving game is reversed with the India serving Africa and not the other way around. Let’s have our stats in place. If we compare the GDP (PPP) of India ($7.9 trillion) with an average African Nation Uganda ($50.4 billion), we notice a huge economic gap. If we compare the Human Development Index (HDI) of India (0.586) with Uganda (0.484), we notice a huge skill developmental lag. Even the currency value of the countries of an average African country are an approx. 20 times devalued in comparison to INR. This gives India a dominating position to explore the resources (human, minerals) of Africa and make them for its own use. It is sad to say that nothing much of that what could have been happened has actually happened in our favour making the tables reversed on us rather than turned towards us.

Image: pixabay

There are a number of issues and concerns that we need to discuss in this regard. First of all the case of flow of brain or talent from one country to another. Generally it has been a trend that a developed country attracts individuals of high aspirations and calibre from the foreign less developed lands in terms of building big in their careers and tapping every ounce of opportunity available. A developed country is measured by the various parameters of GDP, infrastructure, economic policies etc. By way of these, India has been classified as a much developed country as compared to the countering countries of Africa. On this perspective, the flow of brain or talent would ideally have been from Africa to India but it is no news that it is the other way around and it is not good for a country like India. Let’s explore why this phenomenon is prevalent. First of all, India has a more population and more importantly the skilled workforce or the brilliant minds that Indian economic landscape can accommodate. There is already a lot of competition between the sharks in this ocean of India.

To tap more with less difficulty or to find a way not too hard to cross, Indians generally look for offshore opportunities. One of the destination for the offshore opportunities is undoubtedly Africa. Over the past couple of decades, attraction for African soil had grown more than affinity towards any other land. Secondary but considerable the other reason being the lack of talent or skilled manpower in Africa due to the least efforts of the government and the political crisis to develop the same. This reason is secondary because even if they have power talent for export we don’t have as much resources to accommodate this foreign talent as we ourselves are short of providing adequate facilities to our talents. As a result, a brain or a talent drain from India to Africa is there supporting the notion of “India for Africa”.

Let’s talk about the trade relations b/w the two countries. India and African countries enjoy huge trade orders from each other pumping huge money into their economies. Exports from India to Africa mainly include manufactured and finished equipment comprising of industry machinery, pharmaceuticals etc. (Key African nations for such trades being Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa & Kenya). Imports to India from the continent Africa mainly includes naturally obtained products like oil and minerals. One thing to note here is that though there is a bilateral trade between two countries benefiting both parties but Africa enjoys a positive trade balance of about $8 billion. This means there is a net cash flow of dollars from India to Africa due to these trading agreements. Now as we have the facts in place, it further strengthens the notion of “India for Africa” and not the other way around.

Going into deep into this situation, India has a huge need of oil and mineral resources and it is suffering a great trade deficit globally because of these high cash import items. One way to resolve this is to probably possess the untapped resources in the underdeveloped countries of Africa. No doubt India has taken a step in that direction with acquisition of coal mines and oil drill lands in these countries (some examples of successful acquisition being by Videocon, Airtel of coal mines in the recent past). The fact is these small steps to gain control are not enough to cross a tunnel of demand so broad. India being a supreme power as compared to the other countries in question should have done it quite early and that too on a large scale but it somehow lost its opportunities to the big mouths of United States and European countries which dominate much of the natural resources control in these strips. On the contrary, India is forced to pay huge sums of money for importing non-significant amounts to countries like Nigeria just to maintain healthy relations for emergency needs in future. In this case India is too is seen as dependent on Africa rather than exploiting it to be independent. The notion of “India for Africa” gains significance here.

Now let’s talk about tourism in India and Africa and the to and fro movement of people from one place to other. It should be noted that there are more number of Indians visiting countries of Africa than the influx of Africans via tourism in India. This also means we Indians are acting as propagators of the foreign beauty with them having a low appreciation or desire for our beauty. Also economically, it points to the movement of the dollars from Indian subcontinent to Africa. Moreover even if people from those lands are coming to party places like Goa, Kerala etc. they cause lot of havoc than the actual value of culture, economic and interaction derived from them. In some cases they even pose a threat to our securities (in a few incidents in Goa, some Nigerians have been accused or victims in the murder cases arising from brawls at the party. On the contrary, Indians have a record of maintaining the utmost culture and mannerism in foreign states. Even Indians have suffered extreme torture in the form of kidnappings, beatings, exorcism etc. in these strips of wild lands .These things are non-tangential and can’t be quantified in a value as such but still in some way or the other influence the notion “India for Africa”.

When it comes to relief aids and economic bailouts India has always been the forefront contender as a saviour for countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania in the past via sanctioning billions of dollars in the past either though its own monetary funds or routing it via external sources to keep its economy running putting own economy at stake. This has been the attitude of India towards Africa. What more can be said about the relations b/w two countries. Nothing more can be said to define the dynamics of this relationship. Just have a hold of the newspaper headlines of the world news and global economic section of the past 2 months or the coming same interval. An equal idea of what had been conveyed in this article will surely be felt.

“India for Africa” or “Africa for India” a question unclear,

Giving one side the advantage purely not fair.

The decision rests in our hands,

Depends on individual to individual how he understands.

Giving preference to the economy, cultural or relationship transfers,

Or the philosophy of wins-losses, defeats and conquers.

Me up for the notion,” India for Africa” stands strong,

Hope on this your perspective comes along.

Hey India, Go Waka-Waka,

Because this time is for Africa!!

This article has been authored by Ankit Aggarwal from IIM Kashipur


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