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Thursday August 18, 2022

Forging a New Path for India-Africa Relations

harambee factor book on India-Africa relations
The book is available on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle editions.

As the world transitions to post-pandemic optimism, India and Africa have emerged as twin centres of growth and are poised to transform their multi-faceted economic relationship. While academic writings are abundant when it comes to China’s relationship with Africa, there is a severe scarcity of writing that deals with India’s engagement in Africa in its entirety. Moreover, there is hardly any literature that deals specifically with the India-Africa development partnership. Given there isn’t nearly enough research on the subject, very few scholars have managed to put down this dynamic relation on paper, in a lucid and succinct manner. 

And now we have this new book in the market “The Harambee Factor: India – Africa Economic and Development Partnership”, which fills this specific void. Authored by former Indian Ambassador to the African Union Gurjit Singh, this 500-page book minutely details every component of this development partnership. Ambassador Gurjit Singh is a former Indian diplomat with 37 years of experience. He served as India’s ambassador to Ethiopia, the African Union, Germany, Indonesia, and ASEAN.

Gurjit Singh
Gurjit Singh, retired Indian Ambasador.

Over the years, multiple changes in political leadership have taken place in both India and Africa, particularly in Africa, where a change of government is often brought about by force. However, the partnership remained constant. In fact, the spirit of partnership has been growing constantly. And it is this spirit of cooperation which has been magnificently captured by the author, throughout the book. The word Harambee is a Swahili word, commonly spoken in East Africa (particularly in the Great Lakes region). It means “pulling together in a cooperative spirit”. This book consisting of 12 chapters recounts and examines the evolution of Indian development cooperation with Africa. 

The terms “Hari” and “Ambe” were frequently combined as “Har-ambe” by the Indian labourers who built the initial Mombasa-Kissumu railway. Both “Hari” and “Ambe” are the names for the deities Shakti and Vishnu, respectively. According to the author, this pronunciation of “Harambe” was changed by their coworkers to “harambee” and then assimilated into Swahili. This etymological connection, though unverified, also suggests an unexplored dimension of India-Africa relations.

The various facets of India-Africa relations

The main components of India’s development partnership are Lines of Credit (LoC), Grant assistance, Small Development Projects (SDP), Technical Consultancy, Disaster Relief and Humanitarian aid, as well as capacity-building programmes under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme. In the book, the author has detailed all the formal and informal institutions of cooperation which includes the ITEC programme (1964), the Focus Africa Programme (2002), The Initiative for Development and Education in Africa (IDEA) Initiative and LOCs (2004), The Team-9 (2004), The Pan African E-Network Project (2005), India Africa Business Conclave (2005), India Africa Summit Process (2006), and India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS). Indian development partnerships are distinguished from conventional partnerships by their emphasis on the micro- rather than the macro-sustainability of initiatives.

The India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) would be the last, and possibly the most notable, among the prominent multilateral platforms formed by Indian and African politicians. Starting in 2008, today it has become one of the largest regular diplomatic gatherings of African leaders. There have already been three editions: in 2008 (in India), in 2011 (in Ethiopia), and 2015 (again in India). The COVID pandemic has caused the IAFS IV to be delayed, although it is likely to occur later this year, possibly in Mauritania. The author’s account of his experiences as the Sherpa for IAFS II is a genuine pleasure for the readers.

Why is this book special?

At present India-Africa relationship constitutes a vibrant partnership between the two continents, animated by the spirit of developing together as equals, focusing on capacity building, development cooperation and economic and technological initiatives. And, in this book the author has adroitly explained the evolution of India’s Africa policy. In order to comprehend how India’s Africa policy actually functions and how they help the continent, this book could be one essential instrument.

Being a diplomat himself, the author could easily spell out the internal challenges that the Indian Foreign Ministry is facing. The intensity of competition among traditional and rising countries to reach out to Africa has prompted some to refer to it as the “new scramble for Africa.” As I’ve mentioned earlier, literature that deals specifically with the India-Africa development partnership is rare. Given the scarcity of academic writing on the subject, the author scores high by collating all the partnership angles right up to the start of the Covid pandemic. Till date, no other book has managed to analyse the Indian LoCs or ITEC programmes with its historic background and current status in such detail. 

Who are the targeted readers?

The author’s effort in collating and presenting this enormous amount of data in a structured manner is commendable. This book represents an updated compendium of all the branches of the India-Africa development partnership. As seen recently, there is a growing interest in studying India-Africa relations, with Symbiosis School of International Studies (SSIS) launching a Masters of Art in African Studies (Geo-economics and Foreign Policy). This book will have lots of value for students who want to learn about India-Africa relations. Similarly, students interested in the role of emerging powers from the South, international development, foreign policy and global political economy will also have a lot to learn from this book. But it will also be of interest to a broader audience, including policymakers.

The book is now available in hardcover and kindle editions on Amazon

Image courtesy: Amazon

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