The India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) is an official platform for African-Indian relations. The IAFS until now has been held roughly once in every three years, with the first such conclave between 14 heads of African states and the government of India held from April 4 to April 8, 2008 in New Delhi. The second summit was held at Addis Ababa, with India and 15 African countries participating. The Third IAFS, with the theme “Partners in Progress: Towards a Dynamic and Transformative Development Agenda,” was held in New Delhi barely a week ago, from 26–30 October this year. The five-day summit began with official-level consultations followed by the head of states/governments level summit on 29 October 2015, and bilateral meetings on 30 October 2015. A report.

India had taken out all stops to make this summit a raging success, sending invitations to all 54 African nations and assiduously following it up through key members of the government, in some cases personally – as was the case with Sushma Swaraj, who herself invited South African President Jacob Zuma during her visit to in May this year.  The energy and manifold efforts expended by India has borne ample fruit, with all 54 African nations represented for the conclave. With 41 Heads of State/Governments in attendance and the rest represented by senior ministers, this August gathering dwarfed all earlier congregations of world leaders that have taken place in India.  And of course India has proved one-up on what China achieved in 2006 when it hosted its Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Seen in retrospect, the two previous IAF summits saw a mere representative participation, and this is the very first time all 54 African countries have come together outside the continent for such a meeting. The 3rd Summit thus truly succeeds in justifying aspirations and visions of the IAFS, what with the whose-who of Africa gathered at Delhi to hold substantive discussions and seal myriad agreements for mutual benefit and cooperation. The mega-event started off with Prime Minister Modi addressed the inaugural ceremony. Here are the key thrusts in his speech:

Financial Assistance: Concessional credit for Africa of US$ 10 million over the next 5 years announced. PM also announces grant assistance of US$ 600 million, inclusive of the India-Africa Development Fund (US$ 100 million) and the India-Africa Health Fund (US$ 10 million) and 50,000 scholarships in India. Additional support for expansion of the Pan-Africa E-Network and institutions of skilling, training and learning across the continent. 100 capacity building institutions to be created thrust on infrastructure development, public transit, clean energy, irrigation, agriculture and manufacturing capacity.

UN Security Council: India and Africa must speak in one voice for effecting UN reforms, including the Security Council. Today we are a world of free nations and awakened aspirations.  Institutions cannot be representative of the world if they do not give voice to Africa with more than a quarter of UN members, or India, the world’s largest democracy home to one-sixth of humanity. 

Trade: In less than a decade, India-Africa trade has more than doubled to over US$ 70 billion. India is now a major source of business investments in Africa. Today, 34 African countries enjoy duty free access to the Indian market. African energy helps run the engine of the Indian economy, Africa’s resources are powering our industries, and African prosperity offers a growing market for Indian products.

Education: In the last three years alone, nearly 25,000 young Africans have been trained and educated in India. They are the 25,000 new links between us both. Development of human capital in every walk of life will be at the heart of our partnership. India will open its doors wider, it will expand        tele-education, and will continue to build institutions in Africa.

Healthcare & Medicine: India’s expertise in healthcare and affordable medicines can offer new hope in the fight against many diseases – and give every African newborn a better chance to survive. India will also collaborate to develop Indian and African treasures of traditional knowledge and medicines.

Technology: India will make available space assets and technology, and use the possibilities of digital technology to transform development, public services, governance, disaster response, resource management and quality of life. India will expand and extend the Pan Africa E-Network, conceived by late President A P J Abdul Kalam, which links 48 African countries to India and to each other. This will also help set up Pan Africa Virtual University.  India will work to reduce digital divide within Africa and between Africa and rest of the world.

Clean Energy, Climate & Food Security: India will deepen the partnership with Africa on clean energy, sustainable habitats, public transport and climate resilient agriculture.  India-Africa should also achieve a permanent solution on public stock-holding for food security and special safeguard mechanism in agriculture for the developing countries.

Terrorism: Today, in many parts of the world the light of a bright future flickers in the storm of violence and instability. When terror snuffs out life on the streets and beaches, in the malls and schools of Africa, India feels your pain and see the links that unite us against this threat. India wishes to deepen cooperation in maritime security and hydrography, and countering terrorism and extremism.

UN Peacekeeping Missions: India will also provide support for the African Union’s peacekeeping efforts, and train African peacekeepers here and in Africa.  India-Africa grouping must also have a stronger voice in decisions on UN Peacekeeping Missions.

India’s pledge of financial assistance to the tune of US$ 10 billion until year 2020 is more than the concessional finance and grant committed by India over the last two summits, underscoring its determination to steer the partnership onto higher levels qualitatively and quantitatively.  In bilateral interactions as well as in public statements, both the PM and the Foreign Minister have stressed the need to reform international bodies, specifically referring to permanent membership for Africa and India in the UNSC. As it still seems to be castles in Spain – and it is unlikely we see this happening during the coming 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, so ergo, the logical view says we should not fritter away too much political capital on this point at this time. Many African statesmen though, agree with Modi that the UN runs the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjusts to the changing world.

India and Africa share a substantial Indian Ocean maritime boundary. Modi has conveyed his resolve to deepen cooperation in maritime security and hydrography, as well as for countering terrorism and anti-piracy operations. One really big plus is the unanimity achieved for collaborating in the domains of security and defence, including intelligence sharing and training of personnel. Terrorist outfits like Boko Haram, Al Shabab and the Islamic State (IS), pose potent threats to security of regimes and peoples in many countries of Africa. PM Modi batted for a quick decision on the pending UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and has sought the support of African nations in this endeavour.  Other agreements reached include those in crucial areas of capacity building, agriculture, rural development, education and healthcare, the blue economy, trade and investment, institution building etc.

The Prime Minister was honest and candid enough to admit that there have been slips between cups and lips on our part in the past when it came down to project implementation, management and monitoring, referring to Indian commitments during the past two IAF Summits – which promised much but fell short on delivery.  Out of the 100 skilling and training institutes India had promised to set up during the second summit, a mere 40 are on the ground, the rest are in some or other stage of execution. While institution building is not instant coffee, it is for inspired leadership to remove bottlenecks. The African end too is slack, with multiple obstacles occurring there. Several nations lack adequate infrastructure, including well-developed banking networks. Decision-making is too multi-layered. As a remedial measure, a new monitoring mechanism will now be put in place to review ongoing projects and ensure no undue delays occur henceforth.

The PM also strongly pushed for the proposed cooperation framework on climate change, as neither India nor Africa are burdened with the guilt of contributing to global warming in large measure. Suggesting a common forum of “solar-rich” countries, he proposed to convene such at the COP21 UNFCC conference in Paris on 30 November. Asserting that India and Africa are united by common goals of peace, progress and prosperity, he averred that the 3rd IAFS Summit has provided a huge impetus to ‘a rising India and a resurgent Africa’ to realise their full potential. Towards the end, it was also announced that henceforth, future summits shall take place every 5 years instead of the 3 year interregnum between two conclaves of the past.


The summit witnessed speeches of 40-odd foreign ministers of African nations cutting across regions. Speeches were made in an eclectic mix of languages – English, Arabic, French and Portuguese. 

Some African leaders paraphrased India’s ‘Make in India’ to push for India to also ‘Make in Africa’ …

Kurtas and Pajamas proved a big hit with visiting African leaders. Did you know that the Indian government had specially commissioned an Indian fashion label design bespoke jackets and kurtas for each leader. Result, 40 African heads of state arrived for the state dinner dressed in raw silk kurtas, ‘Modi jackets’ and safas.

The IAFS III logo depicts a composite lion with one half of its face that of an African lion and another half that of an Indian lion. The logo was intended to portray a sense of ‘pride, courage, boldness and being on the prowl, ready to take on the future and seize every opportunity’. In the background a map of Africa overlapping and merging with a map of India conveys a reference to ancient Gondwanaland where the Indian subcontinent was part of today’s African continental landmass some eons ago.  

India Gate, the iconic landmark of Delhi, was also illuminated using 3D laser projection, showing India-Africa shared heritage and India’s contribution to African peace and prosperity, throughout the summit week.




On October 26th 2015, 54 African nations gathered in New Delhi for the third edition of the four-day India-Africa Forum Summit, so far India’s most ambitious outreach program towards African nations.  Described as the most spectacular diplomatic exercise ever hosted by India since the 1983 NAM (Non Aligned Movement) summit, the Forum provides an opportunity for India to rejuvenate its relationships in the continent afresh.  While the history of connections between the Indian subcontinent and Africa may be said to hark back to more than a millennium ago, independent India had first articulated a structured engagement with the continent in  2008, bringing into being the IAFS platform.  Sandip Thakur writes on the importance of the recently concluded high-level conclave, which drew to a close on the 30th October instant, for readers of NRI Achievers.

Media reports on the eve of the high-level conclave had indicated that PM Narendra Modi’s proposed launch of ‘a new era of India-Africa relations’ included a plan for the comprehensive development of Africa’s littorals.  In keeping with India’s expanded focus on Africa’s maritime economic potential, commentary in the media had suggested that the Indian government was keen to formalise and forge a wide-ranging maritime partnership.

The current summit was thus important in the context of the evolving development partnership, trade and investment ties, and the scope for convergence on peace and security issues.  In recent years, African countries have experienced high economic growth, with the average annual growth rate of real output increasing from 2.6 percent in 1990-2000 to 5.3 percent in 2000-2010. Further, seven out of ten fastest growing economies in the world during the last decade are from Africa. Despite this relatively strong economic performance, many countries in the continent are grappling with developmental challenges like high levels of unemployment, lack of economic transformation, food insecurity, environmental degradation etc.  Africa has recognized these challenges and at the continental level has formulated an ‘Agenda 2063’ to deal with these vexatious issues.  It is in this backdrop that the India-Africa Forum Summit has to be seen. This development partnership is unique inasmuch as it is based on a consultative model and is driven by African needs, with a focus on human resource development and capacity building in Africa.

India had earlier extended development assistance worth US$ 7.4 billion through lines of credit via India’s Exim bank.  Of this, US$ 6.8 billion has been approved and about US$ 3.5 billion (nearly half) has been disbursed.  These lines of credit have led to the completion of 137 projects in 41 countries across Africa. Apart from this, India had also pledged to set up nearly 100 Indian Africa Training Institutes across the continent. However, progress on this project has not been very satisfactory. These institutes were to be set up in consultation with the African Union, regional economic communities and the host governments. The several layers of consultations required may have been one of the reasons for the delay in the setting up of these institutes.

The 3rd India Africa Forum Summit provided an opportunity for the African countries to do a serious reality check on these projects and continue only with those that are deemed deliverable. For example, India had helped set up the first solar panel production factory in Mozambique, with the Mozambican technicians involved getting trained in India. This factory today is providing the people in rural Mozambique an opportunity to access electricity through clean and renewable energy.  So India can look into enhancing cooperation on renewable energy with Africa.

Over the years there has been a similar interest in engaging with Africa among the Chinese, the Americans and the Europeans. The value of Africa’s trade with China was approximately US$ 210 billion in 2013, while that with the United States was at US$ 85 billion. However, recent decline in oil imports from the United States and sluggishness in the Chinese economy may end up pushing the Africans closer to India. This would indeed present a mammoth opportunity for India to enhance trade, and in fact, one can see this happening.  In 1990-1991 our total trade was at US$ 1 billion, which has grown in 2014-15 to US$ 71 billion.  While South Africa remains the leading destination for India’s exports into Africa in 2014-15, other major destinations are Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique and Mauritius. Important items of export include transport equipment, machinery & instruments, pharmaceuticals, non-basmati rice, cotton yarn fabrics, and semi-finished iron and steel.

In the case of India’s imports from Africa, around 51 percent were sourced from Nigeria in 2014-15. South Africa is the second largest source of import, followed by Angola, Egypt, Ghana and Tanzania.  While petroleum crude accounted for a significant 67 percent of India’s total imports from Africa during 2014-15, other major items imported include gold, inorganic chemicals, metal ores and metal scrap and cashew nuts. India’s private sector playing a pivotal role in the expansion of trade relations has also resulted in Indian investments into Africa multiplying manifold, and currently pegged at US$ 35 billions – in sectors such as telecommunications, information technology, hydrocarbons and agriculture.

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