Interaction with Puneet Roy Kundal, Joint Secretary, MEA
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Shri Puneet Roy Kundal, Joint Secretary, MEA, former Ambassador of India in Tunisia and Consul General of India in Cape Town, highlighted Africa's strategic importance for India in his remarks. He mentions that MEA considers the relationship with Africa historical, forming the genesis of our current trade and people-to-people relations. India has always been present in Africa during its anti-colonial struggles or post-colonial nation-building or capacity-building initiatives.

Given one-fourth of the human population will be from Africa by 2050, it is a continent of the future. Therefore, in addition to China, several other countries, such as Russia, UAE, Egypt, Japan, the UK, US, are vying for more African pies. India is well embedded in Africa and not directly competing with any of these countries. He mentioned India Africa Forum Summit as the overall superstructure of India-Africa relations. The 4th IAFS is expected to take place in 2023.

Africa is on the path of rapid development and requires financial assistance. Currently, the shortfall per year is about 100 billion dollars. Given this need forenormous investments for its development needs, China will continue to play a significant role. The USA has recently committed 55 billion dollars to Africa, to be spent over the next three years. Clearly, that would not suffice in Africa. And China would continue to leverage this point in different international forums by securing African votes. About $153 billion in loans provided by China to various African countries have been used to build infrastructure and, to a large extent, earn China goodwill. This is evident as many UN agencies are currently headed by the Chinese.

Africa's strategic importance for India stems from a few points:

  1. India's aspiration to enhance its global position. As the biggest voting bloc in different multilateral forums, 54 African countries represent 54 votes. The support of Africa will be crucial to improve India's global status.
  2. Given the rising population of India, more land will be required to ensure the food security of so many people. Unfortunately, most lands in India are getting used for infrastructure. Currently, Africa produces only ten per cent of the world's food that can easily be raised to fifty percent. India-Africa's partnership on agriculture has a great future, given 65 percent of arable land is in Africa.
  3. Africa is also important as a market for Indian goods
  4. Africa is the source of several critical natural resources and minerals needed in India.
  5. Africa hosts 3 million, representing 12 per cent of the global Indian diaspora in Africa. Going forward, as Africa continues to grow, many more Indians are expected to be in Africa, especially in the service sector.

Regarding the ITEC and other capacity-building programmes, JS regretted that most of India's work is underway in Anglophone Africa. However, the response is meagre in Francophone West Africa, probably because of the language barrier. Surprisingly, the Lusophone countries in Southern Africa are also optimistic about India's programmes. And there is a need to understand why the response is so low in West Africa.

Event Date 
January 9, 2023

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