The Mauritius-hosted 3rd India-Africa Entrepreneurship & Investment Summit spearheaded by Conveyor Baljinder Sharma, showcases a resplendent platform for esteemed delegates hailing from India and Africa. Spanning two days (21 & 22 July), the summit buzzed with insightful interactions and a vibrant exchange of knowledge, firmly cementing its significance in the realm of entrepreneurship, innovation, and investment. This landmark event is a shining milestone, uniting brilliant minds from both regions, and paving the way for enhanced collaboration and unprecedented growth opportunities for India, Africa and Mauritius. In this paper, we explore the wisdom shared by Dr. Rajiv Kumar, renowned International Economist, and former Vice-Chairperson of NITI Aayog, as he unveils invaluable insights for the future of India-Africa relations.
Unprecedented Challenges and a Common Purpose
In recent times, the burgeoning connection between India and Africa has sparked a momentum that aims to harness their economic growth and developmental potential. Nevertheless, this journey is accompanied by unprecedented challenges, necessitating innovative thinking and diligent implementation, as emphasized by Dr. Rajiv Kumar. Remarkably diverse, both regions boast numerous dialects, languages, and cultural nuances. Connecting the vast populations of 1.4 billion people in each area requires a united endeavor to establish strong links within subregions and uncover common ground for empowering the youth to unleash their promising abilities.
Current Priorities, A Spotlight on Contemporary Foci
“Any person who is working today on India and Africa relations is doing an amazing job, because this represents a connection between today and tomorrow.” – Dr. Rajiv Kumar
Dr. Kumar eloquently stressed that India’s journey to becoming a leading economic power has been molded by three decades of unwavering dedication, meticulous implementations, and significant economic reforms. This remarkable growth serves as a testament to India’s proactive approach in addressing past shortcomings, as underscored by Dr. Kumar. At present, one of the most critical challenges is the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, urging both India and Africa to pursue sustainable paths of economic growth that safeguard the planet from irreversible harm. Dr. Kumar emphasized the undeniable truth that the biochemical evolution has had profound consequences, rendering the Earth less hospitable and fertile. It has sadly transformed once vibrant lands into arid deserts, exacerbating the situation with careless extraction of water from the ground and the unregulated use of harmful chemicals. This stark reality compels us to confront these challenges with urgency and concerted efforts to safeguard our environment and nurture a sustainable future for generations to come. Under Dr. Kumar’s visionary leadership at NITI Aayog, India has placed paramount importance on transitioning from chemical-intensive agriculture to embracing organic farming practices. Similarly, Africa is encouraged to embark on the journey towards more sustainable agricultural methods. Dr. Kumar’s insightful words resonate profoundly: “Business as usual is not good enough; we must think differently from what we have been doing so far.”
Empowering Innovation and Entrepreneurship & Nurturing Emerging Unicorns – This was another key topic thoughtfully discussed by Dr. Kumar during the Summit.
“We must confront our challenges head-on and seek effective solutions together.” Unicorns and start-ups are emerging, brimming with young, risk-taking entrepreneurs eager to create lasting connections. Embracing these innovative minds and fostering partnerships will propel us forward on our shared journey. For growth and development to thrive, the private sector in Africa and India must play a leading role, and governments must support and cultivate an enabling ecosystem.
Dr. Kumar conveyed a vision for a comprehensive development plan that spans the next two decades between India and Africa. This ambitious plan calls a diverse group of global thinkers, who will address challenges in human resources and education while making efficient use of technology. The goal is to empower our children and address concerns arising from the rapid progress of Artificial Intelligence, ensuring that job opportunities are available to all on an equitable basis.
Mauritius, An Emerging Tech Hub and the Bridge Linking India and Africa
The focus on leveraging technology is expected to position Mauritius as a bridge connecting India and Africa on a positive trajectory. The vision is to transform Mauritius into a dynamic tech hub and a platform for exchanging experiences. However, achieving this vision requires establishing credible partnerships, thus moving beyond mere transactions. India’s contribution to Africa aims to be a genuine alternative, free from colonial echoes or transactional motives. Instead, it presents an opportunity for Africa to unlock its full potential and overcome shared challenges, given their combined population of 2.8 billion.
“Working together, it is essential to safeguard against extreme events and forge a formidable future that benefits everyone involved. By fostering collaboration and mutual growth, this vision seeks to ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for all”. – Dr. Rajiv Kumar.
A Fruitful Exchange between the audience and Dr. Rajiv Kumar – Key Takeaways
Geopolitically, India finds itself in a favorable position as China faces uncertainties. This has raised questions about what India did differently to reach this point. Dr. Rajiv Kumar explained that India undertook simultaneous economic, political, and social transitions, addressing century-old challenges in tandem. Though there were costs and room for improvement, since 1991, India has maintained continuity in reforms and given increasing space to the private sector. This approach has set the stage for inclusive growth and development.
Moreover, India’s fifth transformation, the Digital Transformation, has played a significant role in enhancing public infrastructure, including railways. However, the challenge lies in ensuring credible employment opportunities in the largest country in the world.
Hence, one crucial aspect Africa can learn from India is job creation and addressing the migration challenge. While China witnesses 400 million people migrating annually, India’s migration stands at 40 million people, making it a model for Africa to create jobs without heavy migration. Embracing technology and continuous skilling will be essential, as rapid technological changes pose challenges to traditional systems. Education plays a key role, especially for underprivileged communities, demanding new thinking and models for training the younger generation. Dr. Kumar rightly pointed out that “education is key for underserved communities, it is our duty of care to ensure they have access to appropriate guidance. In that vein, every year, a mock UN conference could be organized for all Indian and African children, providing them with a valuable opportunity to interact and learn from each other’s cultures”.
To build resilience, African countries must learn one essential lesson. The private sector acts as the engine of growth, and governments must be supportive and in service of this sector. Building trust at all levels of government is vital, while also focusing on human resource development. Emphasizing the importance of connecting with the government, Dr. Kumar highlighted that the focus should shift towards presenting high-quality research to the authorities, enabling them to implement necessary changes. It is evident that relying on past development models will no longer suffice; instead, a dynamic and innovative approach is needed to shape a prosperous future for all.
Regarding economic planning, Dr. Kumar proposed decentralization to empower districts, similar to India’s approach. This decentralized model allows for targeted development, with only a few policies governed at the national level. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play a crucial role in understanding how to boost district income growth. One significant aspect is focusing on product development within each district, identifying and promoting unique strengths and resources. “This enables local communities to have more say and autonomy in their development. Ideally, very few policies should be governed at the national level, while the rest should be delegated to the provincial and state levels. This approach ensures that states become more empowered to address their specific needs and challenges, leading to more effective and tailored solutions for overall development. As states become more self-sufficient and take ownership of their growth, it paves the way for a stronger and more resilient nation as a whole”, elaborated Dr. Kumar.
Additionally, addressing corruption is crucial for both India and Africa. Evolving systems, reducing human discretion, and introducing regulatory compliances are steps being taken in India to combat corruption.
Dr. Rajiv Kumar’s invaluable insights and discussions during the summit illuminated India’s successful trajectory and the valuable lessons Africa can glean from it. By fostering credible partnerships, resilience, and a forward-looking approach, India and Africa can collaborate to forge a brighter and more prosperous future. Additionally, nurturing unicorn support and investing in education will be vital components in unlocking the full potential of this promising partnership.
In the context of Africa, Dr. Kumar reiterated that the India Africa Entrepreneurship & Investment Summit is considered one of the most critical forums, presenting an ideal platform to be part of. The right agenda must be nurtured, and there is a call to embrace futuristic ideas to drive progress and development. By leveraging this platform, Africa can forge meaningful collaborations and partnerships to address common challenges and unlock its full potential on the global stage. Embracing the idea of a better future and working collectively will pave the way for prosperity and sustainable growth across the continent, concluded Dr. Kumar.