India-Africa Summit

It didn’t get much notice, but the first India-Africa Summit just wrapped up in Delhi today with the adoption of the Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation. The biggest news to come out of the summit, which included delegations from 14 African countries, was India PM Manmohan Singh’s announcement of tariff-free market access for products comprising 92.5% of Least Developed Countries’ exports (34 of 50 LCD’s are in Africa), but the Framework is also noteworthy for the ambitious agenda it lays out for Indian economic and political involvement on the continent. Among other things, it includes a Post Conflict Reconstruction component, as well as a Civil Society and Good Government angle.

In some ways, it’s fair to wonder how capable India is of delivering the goods, given the challenges it faces in developing its own civil society, infrastructure and economy. And the summit wasn’t without its bumps. Congo President Joseph Kabila, for instance had this to say:

Africa needs to meet fundamental needs of its population by building schools, providing housing and generating employment. Words, speeches and promises have remained mere words, we need immediate visible projects.

But this is yet another reflection of the fierce competition for resources and influence taking place globally, but especially in Africa. America’s efforts to establish AFRICOM are an attempt to keep pace with a very determined strategic push by India and China there. This summit reflects the ways in which, despite the advantages we have, the outcome of that competition is in no way pre-ordained in our favor.