Wednesday, June 8, 2011

India and Africa: Soft Power

The Prime Minister’s Africa visit is an important milestone in Indian foreign policy in the recent period. From a very hesitant beginning in the G8 and in fact a deprecating attitude by saying that it did not really matter, India has come a long way and is playing in fact a soft leadership role in the continent of the future.

Africa has a bright future and the sooner the world gets behind its talk of the Dark Continent, the better off it will be. Its great resources are attracting everybody there. There are more than sixty billion dollars of annual investment now being laid out as the OECD brings out. But Africa no longer wants to be a passive supplier of the wherewithal of global expansion and the hewer of wood and drawer of water. A new generation of professionals and business men have arrived and the governance deficits are declining. South Africa, the melting in the Maghreb and many other examples are there for all to see.After a meeting of the Define network of the OECD I was asked to attend an Africa afternoon in Paris. Senior African policy makers were highly articulate on the need of FDI in Africa to have commitments to the economies on a long term basis rather than a lets get ours and go attitude.

Colonial terms were not only unacceptable, they were to be a bad memory of the past. Africa wants its place in the contemporary debates on modern corporate governance and the social responsibilities of business. The OECD was mounting a mission and my plea was that data on this aspect now demanded by global corporate governance standards as in the discussions of the International Chambers of Commerce should be available. Indian companies by now have about ten percent of the FDI and its growing. The experience of some who have a tradition of community service at home is that African societies have a strong sense of community and with peace tend to take advantage of any community initiatives more so than elsewhere.Most land based investments in Africa tend to replace old sources of food and water for example and newer initiatives such that with replacement the communities are empowered to rebuild these resources and meet basic needs more efficiently would be highly appreciated. This would also extend to the education and health sectors. Also resource conserving strategies of doing business and a concern for the environment would go far. India has the experience in its own quests and would do well to share it.

The monies we are placing on the table should be used for building public led public private partnerships for enduring relations for the future.

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