India and South Africa as Partners for Development in Africa?

Image: Flickr, Daniel Incandela
Image: Flickr, Daniel Incandela

The South African Institute of International Affairs National Director, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, has collaborated with Chatham House in London to produce a new briefing paper entitled: ‘India and South Africa as Partners for Development in Africa?’

The paper unpacks the relationship between India and South Africa, two countries who cooperate in many ways including through the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) forum and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping. But they also compete on other instances, especially on what the African continent has to offer. The paper examines many of the convergent and divergent areas and sets out the various approaches to issues such as multilateral reform, security matters (such as terrorism, nuclear weapons and non-proliferation) and trade relations.

Some of the key points in the paper include:

  • The engagement of India and South Africa in Africa can be explained as much by the shifts in global power and realpolitik as by their desire to be seen to be playing a positive developmental role and shouldering global responsibilities.
  • India articulates its Africa policy through a national-interest prism, especially with regard to energy security, trade and terrorism. Development cooperation is a byproduct of its engagement in Africa rather than a central driving force.
  • South Africa is currently reassessing how it articulates its national interest in the context of its African agenda. It sees India’s engagement in Africa in a positive light, especially its focus on human-resource development, ICT and agriculture.
  • While cooperation between the two countries may be possible in certain areas such as the India Brazil South Africa Forum (IBSA), in others it may be too politically sensitive for them to be perceived to be working together. Both aim to advance their commercial interests on the continent, which implies an element of rivalry.
  • There is scope for deepening the substance of political and economic relations between India and South Africa, which has been hampered by capacity constraints on both sides and differing priorities. Development cooperation between the two in Africa is not a priority for either but using the private sector in this field is an important potential model.
This briefing paper has been made available to SAIIA by Chatham House.