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'The Harambee Factor': African continent on mind

'The Harambee Factor': African continent on mind

The Harambee Factor: India-Africa Economic and Devel opment Partnership by Gurjit Singh. PanMacmillan. Pages 500. Rs 2,802

Book Title: The Harambee Factor: India-Africa Economic and Devel opment Partnership

Author: Gurjit Singh

Ruchita Beri

India has long and historical relations with countries across the Indian Ocean in Africa. Notably, India’s relations with Africa have grown considerably in recent years, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving high priority to engaging with the region. To some extent, this trend is, as author Gurjit Singh rightly points out in ‘The Harambee Factor’, shaped by the opportunity that Africa presents to all its external partners.

The book offers a comprehensive and lucid analysis of India’s economic and development cooperation with African countries in the last two decades. The author’s long experience as a diplomat, leading the Africa territorial division in the Ministry of External Affairs and representing the country as the Ambassador to Ethiopia and African Union in Addis Ababa, helps bring in a practitioner’s perspective of India’s engagement with the region.

Africa has displayed tremendous economic growth, emerging as the ‘second fastest growing region in the world in the last 15 years’ (pre Covid-19). The fresh initiatives by African countries, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), add to this perspective.

It is clear that India’s development cooperation is people-centred, demand-driven and guided by African priorities. The book examines various facets of India’s development partnership with the African continent. At the Government to Government (G2G) level, he analyses the various instruments of this engagement. India’s Lines of Credit (LoC) to African countries have attracted much attention. From 2003 to 2020, nearly 200 LoCs worth about $12 billion were extended. The author looks at the biggest beneficiaries of the LoC programme and also provides the sectoral distribution. India has been involved in projects related to power, railways, engineering, information and communication technologies and others.

In 2008, India hosted the first India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) followed by the second in 2011 and the third in 2015. The book provides insights into the genesis of the IAFS process and a realistic assessment of the implementation of pledges made by India. At the first summit, India showcased its intention of becoming a development partner and by IAFS III, a new dynamism in the development agenda was visible.

Another important point that the book makes is that ‘sharing of knowledge’ is an important goal of India’s development partnership. This is apparent through different scholarship/fellowship schemes available to facilitate higher education for African students in India. The author also dwells on various training courses conducted under the aegis of the India Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

The book notes that India’s economic partnership is not driven purely at the G2G level. Civil society organisations, including Barefoot College and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), are equally active in Africa. Similarly, the private sector plays an important part in enhancing India’s trade and investment with the region. Here, the role of India’s premier chambers of industry like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) are also emphasised by the author.

‘The Harambee Factor’ provides an objective and fresh analysis of India’s growing economic engagement with Africa. A must-read for students of African studies.