Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

India and Africa's Shared Journey: Dr. Jaishankar on AU's Role in G20

Thu 16 Nov 2023 | 09:28 PM

Let me say what a great pleasure it is to welcome you all here. As we gather together to really celebrate and appreciate the importance of the African Union's permanent membership of the G20. To truly understand that, I think it's important that we think back of the journey that India and Africa have gone together. This is not a new journey, it is something which, of course it has its beginnings in the recesses of history, but certainly from the 18th century I think we were both regions that were impacted by the advent of colonialism. And just as we struggled through that in the 19th, it was logical that the 20th century saw the independence struggles, the independence outcomes actually rectify as much in our part of the world as in Africa.

I think in many ways our destinies were interconnected, they certainly impacted each other. We learned a lot from struggles in Africa, just as I'm sure what happened in India also influenced many African countries and societies. Now I begin there because it has always been a belief, I would say almost a cardinal tenet of Indian foreign policy, that our independence was not complete without the independence of Africa, our development was not complete without the development of Africa, and our rise will only be full and firm when we also see the rise of Africa. So there is a certain, I would say, not only solidarity, not just shared interest, but something far deeper, that it is actually in our realizations of our aspirations and goals that the rebalancing of the world will happen, that when we speak about a multipolar world, for us a multipolar world will be multipolar when Africa is also one of the poles.


Many of you would recall that very soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi. took office in 2014, we held the IAFS III Summit in New Delhi in 2015. It was the most ambitious of its series. And I mention it because despite the COVID, we have largely delivered on our commitments in the IAFS, but also to seek your support, Excellencies, of the need to hold IAFS IV. Prime Minister Modi also articulated his commitment, his personal commitment during a visit to Africa in 2018, that the priorities of Africa are the priorities of India. That we would be guided by what are the interests of Africa, and we will certainly give in our own foreign policy a particular, a very special place to Africa.

I would also say that one of the directions of our Prime Minister was that our foreign policy should reflect what is our domestic policy, and that domestic policy is an appreciation of diversity and of pluralism, a particular focus on inclusiveness, a commitment to social justice, focusing on the vulnerable and ensuring that no one is left behind. And that is exactly the kind of thinking. These are actually the principles which have also been our foreign policy principles of the last decade. So when we say today that India would like to be a Vishwa Mitra, ‘a friend of the world’, a friend of the world just like we are seeking within India, we are seeking within India; social justice, fairness, equity, access for all, affordability. These are exactly the goals which also guide our approach to international affairs.

By doing the Voice of the Global South Summit, we very clearly signal to the G20 that this is what we are going to make as the subject centre for the duration of our Presidency.

Now when we approached the G20, as I said, there were three broad strands in our thinking. One was how to make the G20 agenda Africa-centric, Global South-centric. So what should be the deliberations, what should be the outcomes, how do we do it in a much more meaningful way than in the past. The second was the permanent seat in the G20 for the African Union.

The second relates to my mind to food security. 2023 has been the International Year of Millets, and it is a campaign which we in India have taken great pride in promoting, it was something which the Prime Minister personally pushed, and each one of you, including at today's lunch, I think are by now deeply familiar with how effectively and creatively and tastefully, millets can be presented. But in my own travels in Africa, I've also been struck how deeply this is part of your tradition as much as it is of ours. And as we struggle today with the uncertainties of food accessibility and availability, when we looked at the problems on wheat supply and rice supply that the world has seen even in the last few years, the stress on millets, millet production can actually be a very big and bold and impactful step in global food security.

I take the opportunity to also assess where India and Africa stand today in our relationship. Our trade with Africa today is in excess of US$100 billion and it's actually fairly evenly balanced. 27 African LDC countries benefit from our duty-free tariff preferences and our expectation is that this trade will easily double in the coming decade. It's not just trade, India is among the top five investors in Africa. Our estimated investment in Africa is in excess of US$80 billion. The bulk of our new Embassies in the last decade have also opened in Africa. And not just Embassies, the first Indian Institute of Technology abroad has recently opened in Africa. And we see in our relationship actually a very, very powerful force that would rebalance the global polity which in our view has been skewed over the last two centuries.

In terms of our development partnership, again, we have always been very clear that we respond to the priorities of our partners. I'm glad to say that we've done actually more than 200 projects in Africa, 208 to be precise. And many of these are quite notable in your particular countries. I myself had the privilege of seeing some of them. In fact, whenever I have gone on a visit, it's been my good fortune to spend some time in one of the projects that we have recently done. And they are projects which have really made a difference to people's lives, that these are projects which have delivered on agriculture, on water, on energy, on IT, in terms of governance. So we're really proud of that. And we have also continuously, and this is part of our history, that we have continuously contributed to capacity building in Africa. So even after IAFS-III, I see that we have delivered on more than 30,000 scholarships. And whenever Africa has been in distress, our colleagues in Mozambique and Madagascar would vouch for it particularly, or many of you during COVID as well, that we have tried our best to respond through HADR operations. The period of the COVID was particularly testing. I'm glad that we were not only able to contribute through COVAX, but also in many cases to do so bilaterally, through vaccine supplies from India.

So, I believe today that what has happened at the G20 is one step, a very important step, but one step on what is a larger partnership which has been unfolding and which has gathered pace in the last decade. As I look ahead next year, 2024, we will have the NAM Summit in Africa. We will have the G77 Summit in Africa. India and Africa must work together very closely in the Summit for the Future, because I think as the youngest demographies of the world, we have the most at stake when it comes to the future. It's important that we press the issue of the SDG Agenda 2030 together, that we also coordinate strongly on UN reform, and that we actually strive to make this a world which is much more sensitive to the Global South.