Extend India-France collaboration for the development of Africa

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India and France both have well-established commitments with Africa. While France continued its postcolonial ties, India engaged Africa in a well-recognized model of cooperation. Due to the pandemic, debt issues and economic stress have emerged with greater impact.

There are good reasons to reformulate some aspects of engagement with Africa. Among these is the trilateral cooperation between like-minded countries that are contributing to Africa’s development and perhaps recovering some of the ground lost to China. The idea of ​​trilateral cooperation is currently widely accepted, but its implementation requires specific bilateral agreements and the involvement of development agencies, businesses and funds on both sides. This commentary seeks to expose some ideas, which could possibly contribute to the development of a powerful India-France partnership for the development of Africa.

India and France have been dialoguing on Africa since June 2017. The second edition took place in December 2018. The third edition could take place this year. The dialogue seeks to develop cooperation synergies between India and France to seek a development pact taking into account African preferences.

France maintains some of the most diverse socio-economic, strategic, academic, cultural and technological relations with African countries. Twenty-nine African countries are francophone and dominate the composition of the African Union. Almost 100 million people in Africa speak French. France’s engagement, with its former colonies, is more intense, but not always devoid of problems. The Commonwealth bond is less empowered than the bonds established by the Francophonie, of which 29 of the 88 members are African. France provides 8% of FDI in Africa and its US $ 55 billion trade is the largest in the European Union. French official development assistance (ODA) targets 18 African countries. In 2020, 39% of France’s bilateral ODA went to Africa (3.6 billion euros), of which 80% (2.9 billion euros) to sub-Saharan Africa.

Under President Macron, Africa receives more attention. He tried to reach countries outside the French sphere of influence. More recently, his visits to Rwanda and South Africa are notable. France plays a continental role in Africa. France also recognizes that China has overtaken it as an economic partner, even in African countries where France has traditionally been the main partner. France must demonstrate the revitalization of its multifaceted partnership with the continent. India focuses on Africa with its demand-driven, unconditional and human resource development-based approach.

India and France can work together to deepen their impact on Africa’s development. Their partnership can reduce the costs of development projects and doing business, which may offer viable alternatives to China’s growing intervention. This can take into account the more liberal, democratic and pluralistic attributes of the two partners. A congruence of development priorities is possible because France deals with education and vocational training, health and climate change. India’s broad cooperation prioritizes these sectors.

India and France can work together to deepen their impact on Africa’s development. Their partnership can reduce the costs of development projects and doing business, which may offer viable alternatives to China’s growing intervention. This can take into account the more liberal, democratic and pluralistic attributes of the two partners

India has a deeper penetration thanks to LoCs in 41 African countries. However, its development projects are often not implemented in French-speaking countries. This is an opportunity to cooperate with France in its target countries. The 18 countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Ethiopia and Senegal have been effective partners with India at the G2G level and at the private level. The Comoros, Djibouti and Madagascar overlap with India’s Indo-Pacific policy. Most of the rest of the country is where Indian efforts are slowly bearing fruit. Working with France as a partner of these can increase the effectiveness of trilateral cooperation for the benefit of African partners.

De-stress Debt

Africa’s development partners must deal with the increasing youth population in Africa, pandemics, urbanization and development. the pandemic could push around 40 million people into poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, creating income inequalities, which can nullify the possible gains of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Most African countries facing the pandemic lack the capacity for fiscal stimulus. They ask for rescheduling or even cancellation of the debt. Rising debt levels are straining African economies.

These concerns are being addressed by India and France through the efforts of the G20. India has rolled over some debt repayments and is considering rescheduling its US $ 11 billion loans to African countries. France convened a Summit on the financing of African economies on May 18 around which he canceled $ 5 billion in Sudanese debt and focused on new ways to finance Africa’s development. Health care, debt relief and economic rejuvenation were supported. The call aimed to create programs with African plans and perspectives in mind. This is what India has done well. In consultation with Africa, India and France should develop cheaper programs using ODA grants and FDI as the main vehicle of support.

Trilateral development cooperation

An ICN report on trilateral cooperation in Africa proposed that India could collaborate with voluntary partners on projects under their various programs in areas where there were significant gaps in the Indian pact. Development agencies from India and France could jointly undertake grant projects in target countries. This could meet the priorities of French-speaking African countries, where India has limited engagement. These could include Chad, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Mali as a priority. The Comoros and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean region would also be important. Through joint discussion with African governments, chambers of commerce and local development partners, India and France can build such institutions.

Capacity Building

Capacity building institutions, which India had introduced as part of the IAFS process, were approved during Macron’s 2018 state visit to India. Institutes for entrepreneurship development, vocational training and ICTs (some of which have been successfully established by India in different parts of Africa) could be implemented jointly. France could ease the budget and infrastructure costs that India expects from the host country. India could implement soft infrastructure, equipment and training manuals. Success will follow if these could be linked to existing industries, for which these institutions could train human resources for absorption. Such upstream integration and business plans are imperative for the success of projects and constitute the weak link in Indian efforts. French companies present in Africa could ensure this sustainability.

Private sector efforts

Trilateral partnerships will be more successful beyond G2G efforts if B2B relationships create synergies. The India-EU connectivity partnership includes Africa as an area of ​​collaboration with a value-based approach, which will give Africa better value for the money spent. India and France could use it for relevant connectivity projects and counter the Chinese narrative.

Trilateral partnerships will be more successful beyond G2G efforts if B2B relationships create synergies. The India-EU connectivity partnership includes Africa as an area of ​​collaboration with a value-based approach, which will give Africa better value for the money spent. India and France could use it for relevant connectivity projects and counter the Chinese narrative.

French companies implementing large projects could benefit from collaboration with Indian companies, which could reduce the cost of the project by providing profitable services. A power plant could benefit from lower cost of transmission lines by Indian companies. This would require contractor-subcontractor relationships. As supply systems are varied and difficult to correlate, projects can be segmented. India offers $ 1.5 billion for two-stage loans via EBID. These are projects in West Africa. This offers Indian financing for joint ventures with African and French companies in West Africa.

The effort should be to have more PPP-led projects, rather than heavy loans for Africa. For example, EPI and Crompton Greaves signed JVs with French companies in 2016 for projects in India. These can also be taken to Africa. A more coherent B2B approach between India and France should be encouraged. This is the most difficult part of trilateral cooperation, and India and France need to establish this connectivity between companies to move this idea forward.

Promote the SDGs through the International Solar Alliance

India and France could do well together in the pursuit of sustainable development goals, particularly through the International Solar Alliance (ASI). Bringing clean and green energy to African countries can solve several socio-economic problems. India and France jointly promoted ISA headquartered in India. Almost 45 percent of its members are African. India has allocated $ 2 billion of its letters of credit to Africa for solar projects. India and France can establish a hybrid grant and loan model with confirmed PPAs to establish an alternative funding model to promote ISA goals. This will have an impact on cooperation with Africa.

Since 2018, the Renewable Energy Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI) exists with the World Bank, AfD and ISA as partners. This has mobilized over US $ 350 million for green projects in Africa. Although France is a co-founder with India of the ISA, its commitment has been more vocal than substantial. He recently donated US $ 1 million to the ISA after six years. Its contribution to the Green Climate Fund is greater. ISA activities as in solar park in Mali did not attract much French support. However, the AfD has invested 380 million euros in Africa, to install 650 MW of solar power plants. While French energy companies are overcoming their hesitation on renewable energies, Total has renamed itself TotalEnergies under pressure from its shareholders. It is imperative that the Indo-French vision of the ISA leads to a concrete implementation in Africa.

A good way forward will be to broaden the Indo-French dialogue by including chambers and development agencies to join the discussion in a practical way.


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