A G20 installation outside Pragati Maidan (Photo: Ashish Sharma)
When Prime Minister Modi brought the ceremonial gavel down to invite the African Union to take its permanent seat on the global high table of G20, it shattered the global glass ceiling which kept the countries of the global south to the margins. The bear hug between Indian PM Modi and Comoros President Azali Assoumani which followed signified the embrace of the global south by the rest of the world.
The New Delhi summit of G20 under India’s presidency will perhaps be remembered for inclusion of the African Union (AU) in the G20, making it the G21. The African Union which represents 55 countries is the second such union after the European Union to be a part of the G20. This journey to add one digit has not been an easy one. This required relentless pursuit and political will at the global level for which India’s G20 presidency will be remembered for times to come. The focus of India’s G20 presidency has been about voicing the priorities of the Global South by framing an inclusive and balanced international agenda. PM Modi gave the 4 R’s mantra of Respond, Recognise, Respect and Reform during the voice of the global south summit earlier this year. The G20 presidency under India, has not merely served lip service to the global south, but also ensured concrete actions which culminated in the African Union’s membership of the forum.
India and Africa are natural partners. The centuries-old connection that exists between India and Africa has been predominantly established through trade, human migration, and interactions between cultures. The interaction has also played a great role in shaping two great personalities of India and Africa- Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. While Gandhi’s political foundations were laid during his stay in Africa, Mandela was inspired by Gandhi which in turn laid the foundation of the African resistance against colonialism and apartheid. In recent times, the historic India-Africa friendship has shifted from regular trade relations to a thriving multi-dimensional partnership driven by development cooperation and other economic and technological initiatives .The bilateral trade of India with Africa grew by 9.26% in FY 2022-23 which is now around $100 billion and India is aiming to achieve the goal of doubling the trade volume to $200 billion by 2030. The partnership has witnessed a paradigm shift from building mutually beneficial economic relations to creating an economic process that is sustainable and developing together as equal partners and brothers. Strong advocacy of African Union admission to the G20 by India reinforces this fact.
In 2015,India hosted the third India-Africa Summit which was the largest such gathering between India and the leaders of African states. The summit featured the largest of the India Africa Forum Summits, with participation from 41 heads of state and hundreds of senior officials from 54 of the 55 African nations. One of the key focus areas the Indian leadership argued for was to get a rightful global place and be a stronger partner for the world. Today, the inclusion of the African Union under India’s G20 presidency, has not only acknowledged the importance of the African Union at a global stage but also allows India to counterbalance China’s position within the African Union region.
China is one of the largest trading partners of Africa and primarily follows the debt diplomacy within the region. This has been effectively countered to some extent by India by developing a focused African Union strategy vis-à-vis the G20. Key priority areas ranging from economic to geo-strategic and geopolitical issues can now be further together explored and developed. India can now develop collaborations on emerging sectors which mutually benefit both India and AU. The African Union is home to more than 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and houses over 30% of minerals which are required to develop renewable – low carbon technologies. The world cannot shift to electric vehicles and achieve net zero without Africa which has minerals like cobalt. This is one reason why the world’s powers are looking to Africa with interest.
India can play a pivotal role in bringing together business leaders and policymakers from both the African Union and India at one platform for further enhancing the partnership. Further both can enhance cooperation and collaboration to seek reforms of the United Nations and other worldwide financial institutions and governing agencies to make a more inclusive fair and a democratic global order. By using both regional and international economic diplomacy and mutual aid, both can deal with its similar growth challenges. India and African nations mutually beneficial development partnership can additionally reinforce both of their respective contributions to the geo-economic system and future international governance structure.Mahatma Gandhi once said that he was born in India, but made in Africa. By leading the efforts for Africa’s inclusion at the geopolitical high table, India has done its bit towards repaying that philosophical debt. This is perhaps just the beginning of a stronger India-Africa ties based on ideals and shared values in which fulfilment of mutual interest becomes just a consequence.