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India-Africa Partnership-Role Of The Common Man

Sandeep Jain writes:The Indo-African summit is presently on in New Delhi. There is lot of focus on trade, investment, strategic partnership, historical linkages between India and the African continent as also country specific bilateral issues such as import of oil from Nigeria

Sandeep Jain writes: The Indo-African summit is presently on in New Delhi. There is lot of focus on trade, investment, strategic partnership, historical linkages between India and the African continent as also country specific bilateral issues such as import of oil from Nigeria. We are also seeking support on Indian claim to UNSC membership, terrorism, stance in WTO and many such issues where we seek congruence of interests.

The World now recognises that the African continent is the new global growth hotspot. The chronic political instability is gradually being replaced by democratic institutions in Africa even though the pace of change is slow. This has led to a scramble for Africa. In any case Africa boasts of a large resource basin in natural wealth.

China particularly has tried to enlarge its footprint in Africa by investing or promising to invest billions of dollars there. India also seeks a portion of the African pie. However, we cannot match the Chinese model at all, since unlike China we do not have monetary surpluses which can be invested elsewhere.

While we must explore all options such as better trade etc, there is one area where Indians can have a distinct advantage over all other nationalities when it comes to relationship with African nations. That is the role of the common Indian. I must start this narrative with the example of Indian teachers in Eritrea. While deployed there as part of a UN mission, I realised that there was a large community of retired Indian teachers which were employed in the Eritrean education system. This was a win-win situation. The teachers had worked their stipulated tenures in the Indian system up to 58-60 years of age but could still work for another 10-15 years. Divested of responsibilities of their children, they were comfortable in going to an underdeveloped country. Their salaries being in dollars, they were making good money when converted to Indian rupee. On the other hand for the Eritrean education system they brought a lifetime of experience and silently contributed to their nation building. They were highly respected in the local society.

While Africa is growing it needs expertise in many such areas such as education, healthcare, technology and so on. The list is endless. Indians can fulfil this critical need. Indian nationals carry world class skill sets. If being paid in dollars-they are actually low cost employees. They also assimilate very well in all local societies and are trusted. More importantly they do not seek political leverage. Similarly Indian businessmen have been able to find a niche for themselves. In many places they have contributed significantly to the host nation economies.

What is however, lacking is government facilitation for Indians to be able to get the initial foothold. Public at large is unaware of the tremendous employment opportunities existing in the “Dark Continent”. Similarly our embassies and consulates in various countries have not proactively made this case. In fact the Indians working in Africa have largely been on their own. This has to change. Once so, Indian common man can become the biggest link to Africa.

 

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