President’s visit provides a fillip to India-Africa engagement

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi enunciated the ten guiding principles for India Africa engagement during his address to the Ugandan parliament in July last year, it gave India a concrete framework to follow, a sort of a vision document, while pursuing its engagement with African countries. The very first principle placed emphasis on increasing our diplomatic and political outreach to the continent, which is reflected in the increasing number of high-level visits from both sides. Such sustained and regular visits continues to define our partnership as PM Modi’s administration embarks on its second term.

 

President Ram Nath Kovind’s special affinity for Africa is well-known. In 2017 and 2018, he visited four countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mauritius. Even in this term, his Africa sojourn continued with visits to three resource-rich Francophone West African countries – Benin, Gambia and Guinea. For decades, engagement with West African countries did not figure high on Indian agenda, as opposed with English-speaking Anglophone countries in east and southern Africa. While initiatives like the 2004 Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Movement (TEAM-9) comprising eight West African countries were operational, Indian engagement with the West African region remained largely limited.

 

However, the dynamics are now changing. Africa’s two largest crude oil exporter, Nigeria and Angola respectively, lies in the region. As we are aware, India has high demand for oil, both crude and petroleum, and natural resources. Consequently,India’s energy requirements and imperatives has pushed us to forge closer partnerships with West African countries, who have emerged as important export markets and import sources for India.