India-African Union (AU) relations have been developing rapidly over the past few years. Read here to know more about the AU.
India has a long history of partnership with Africa, with solidarity and political affinity going back to the early 1920s when both regions were fighting against colonial rule and oppression.
The African Union (AU) is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent. It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999).
The African Union is celebrating its 20th Anniversary on the 9th of July 2022.
History of African Union
In May 1963, 32 Heads of independent African States met in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to sign the Charter creating Africa’s first post-independence continental institution, The Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
The main objectives of the OAU were:
- to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid;
- to promote unity and solidarity amongst the African States;
- to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development;
- to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States;
- to promote international cooperation
The OAU Charter spelled out the purpose of the Organisation namely:
- To promote the unity and solidarity of the African States;
- To coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa;
- To defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence;
- To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; and
- To promote international cooperation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The African Union (AU) was officially launched in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, following a decision in September 1999 by its predecessor, the OAU to create a new continental organization to build on its work.
The work of the AU is implemented through several principal decision-making organs:
- The Assembly of Heads of State and Government,
- Executive Council,
- Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC),
- Specialized Technical Committees (STCs),
- Peace and Security Council and The African Union Commission
The AU structure promotes the participation of African citizens and civil society through the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).
To ensure the realization of its objectives and the attainment of the Pan African Vision of an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, Agenda 2063 was developed as a strategic framework for Africa’s long-term socio-economic and integrative transformation.
- Agenda 2063 calls for greater collaboration and support for African-led initiatives to ensure the achievement of the aspirations of the African people.
India-African Union relations
India’s freedom movement had many Indian nationalists who viewed the struggle for independence as part of the global movement against imperialism.
After India gained independence, it became a leading voice in support of African decolonization at the United Nations.
Independent India helped the African countries with available resources under the banner of South-South cooperation.
In 1964, India launched the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program to provide technical assistance through human resource development to other developing countries, with African countries being the greatest beneficiaries of it and the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme (SCAAP).
India’s economic engagement with Africa began intensifying in the early 2000s and India is now Africa’s third-largest trade partner.
Indian investments in Africa have also grown rapidly in the last decade and the country is currently the seventh-largest investor in Africa.
The scale of India’s development cooperation with Africa has also grown rapidly. From 2003 onwards, India began to use concessional lines of credit (LoC) as one of its key development partnership instruments to fund the construction of railway lines, electrification, and irrigation projects, and farm mechanization projects, among others.
India’s first high-level visit to Africa for 2022 saw the following developments:
- India announced the Phase-II up-gradation of the Entrepreneurship Development and Technology Centre (CEDT) in Dakar, built with Indian grant assistance.
- India also offered a Special ITEC English proficiency course for Senegalese public servants.
- India announced a Special training program for a batch of 15 Senegalese diplomats at the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Services.
Both sides signed three MOUs:
- MoU on cooperation in Youth Affairs
- Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP)
- Visa waiver Agreement for diplomats/officials
India undertook two initiatives in association with the AU in its early years. The Pan African E network Project (PANEP) was implemented in 47 African countries and ran successfully for a decade beginning in 2009.
- This visionary project was enunciated by former President APJ Abdul Kalam in 2004 and a committee of the African Union Commission (AUC) and India led its formulation and implementation.
- The PANEP supported capacity building in education and medicine in Africa and contributed to decision-making capacity within the AUC itself.
India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS)
Due to these initiatives, the India-AU partnership became vibrant and robust leading to the first India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in 2008, which was coordinated by the AUC.
The IAFS is held every three years.
The Summit adopted the Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation, which constituted the blueprint for cooperation between India and Africa in the 21st century.
India announced unilateral duty-free and preferential market access for exports from all Least Developed Countries, 34 of which are in Africa.
Significance of India-African Union relations
Food and nutrition security are major issues for African countries, and in some parts of India as well.
- Africa produces a very small percentage of agricultural output even after having a large percentage of the world’s arable land.
- The bilateral relations between India and African Union can be beneficial in improving the agricultural sector.
Africa has become a hub for global economic players to invest especially in energy, mining, infrastructure, and connectivity.
- In this context, India-Africa relations can ensure that Africa does not become a ground of economic rivalries and that economic opportunities increase.
The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) is an economic cooperation agreement between the governments of India, Japan, and multiple African countries. India, in 2017 launched a vision document for Asia-Africa Growth Corridor at the African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat.
India-African union relations focus on building local capacities and an equal partnership with Africans.