Focus on Africa, the heart of the Global South
Why in News?
- The second U.S.-Africa summit was held in Washington recently. The leaders of 49 countries and the chair of the African Union (AU) participated from Africa.
Outcomes of the Summit:
- Support for G20 membership:
- The U.S. announced its support for the AU to join the G20 as a permanent member.
- Permanent representation for Africa at UNSC:
- The U.S. said it “fully supports” reforming the UN Security Council (UNSC) to include permanent representation for Africa.
- Although a majority of UNSC’s agenda pertains to Africa and the majority of Africans are directly affected by the body’s decisions, the continent does not have a single representing member.
- Supporting African resilience and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic:
- The US plans to lend up to US$21 billion through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to low and middle-income countries, many of whom are located in Africa.
- Various US departments and agencies announced new initiatives and investments to promote two-way trade and investments. For example, the US Trade Representative signed an MoU with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat to support institutions to accelerate sustainable economic growth across Africa.
- Once implemented, the AfCFTA is touted to be the largest free trade area in the world, in terms of number of participating countries, and is set to create a combined continent-wide market of 1.3 billion people and 3.4 trillion GDP.
- The First Regional Multi-Sectoral Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compacts:
- The MCC totalling US$504 million was signed with the Governments of Benin and Niger to support regional economic integration, trade, and cross-border collaboration.
- The MCC has signed similar agreements with the Governments of the Gambia, Lesotho, and Malawi for nearly US$675 million which supports climate adaptation.
- Digital Transformation with Africa initiative:
- US launched this initiative, which aims to expand digital access and literacy across Africa.
- Under this initiative, the US intends to invest over US$350 million and facilitate over US$450 million in financing for the continent, in line with the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy.
- 21st Century Partnership for African Security (21PAS):
- Under this partnership, the US plans to provide US$100 million to incentivize and bolster African efforts to implement and sustain security sector capacity and forms. This is a three-year pilot program under which US and African partners and civil society organizations, will look at ways to sync, share, and support solutions to Africa’s security challenges.
- Promise of Visit:
- A promise for the president and the vice president to visit Africa next year was made. This will be a refreshing change as no U.S. president has been seen in Africa since 2015.
- Largest trading partner:
- China, on the other hand, has emerged as the largest trading partner and the fourth largest investor in the African continent, ahead of the U.S., through its steady diplomacy and extensive economic engagement.
- In 2021, while U.S.-Africa trade stood at $44.9 billion, China-Africa trade exchanges stood at $254 billion.
- The U.S. investment stock in Sub-Saharan Africa was $30.31 billion last year, compared with China’s total investment in Africa of $43.4 billion in 2020.
- Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC):
- The U.S. and other nations can take a cue from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), established in October 2000.
- The FOCAC is composed of ministers and leaders of Africa and China who meet once in three years, alternately in Beijing and an African capital.
- The Chinese president participates in deliberations in person or digitally.
- China has a full-fledged inter-ministerial mechanism to ensure the timely implementation of FOCAC decisions.
- The last meeting, held in Dakar in 2021, expressed support for the Chinese agenda: One-China Principle, the Global Development Initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the vision of “a community with a shared future.”
- It also applauded the decision by the 2018 FOCAC summit in Beijing to build “a China-Africa community” that strives for “win-win cooperation.”
- Consistent attention to Africa:
- For years, the Chinese foreign minister begins his annual series of foreign visits by travelling to Africa.
- Whatever flaws there may be in China’s economic diplomacy in Africa — and there are many, its consistent attention to Africa contains a useful lesson.
- However, US-Africa summits tend to be rather infrequent. The last summit took place back in 2014. Moreover, No U.S. president has visited Africa since 2015.
- Thus The U.S.’s attempts to raise its profile in Africa remain episodic and faulting.
Implications for India:
- India’s equity in Africa is older and richer than that of China and the U.S., but that should not be a source of complacency.
- India has striven hard, in the past two decades, to strengthen its political and economic partnership with Africa at the continental, regional and bilateral levels.
- The government has created a special momentum in arranging high-level exchanges and forging cooperation initiatives during the 2015-19 period.
- Since then, COVID-19, the economic downturn, the war in Ukraine, and the border conflict with China may have contributed to a slowdown. This should be arrested quickly.
- The fourth India-Africa Forum Summit should be held in early 2024, lest the third summit held in 2015 becomes a distant memory.
- India, through the G20 presidency, intends to be remembered as the voice of the Global South at the heart of which is Africa.
- Most of the 54 countries of this continent are developing or least developed countries.
- To truly represent the South, it is essential to grasp the mood and changes in Africa, especially in its external partnerships. This will determine the contribution India can make to advance the African agenda.
- The G20 presidency is India’s opportunity to ensure that the AU becomes a permanent member of this grouping and to reflect firmly Africa’s Agenda 2063 for development.
- India and the U.S. should work closer together in Africa. The time is now for India and the US to demonstrate their sustained commitment to Africa and Africans.