Making Indo-African cooperation a two way street
Having just returned from 39th shodhyatra in western Odisha, I can say that if we find In AFRICA even ten percent of the innovations and unique traditional knowledge that we discovered in this walk, India will learn a lot. Those who are not convinced should read a book, Africa Calling (http://nif.org.in/africa_calling) having innovations for and from Africa, published in Honey Bee newsletter earlier. The Indian Prime Minister signed an agreement during his visit to South Africa last year when he focussed on how both countries can learn and leverage from respective grassroots innovations. Now that African Development Bank Group meeting is being hosted in Ahmedabad, let us look at some of the pointers to future cooperation?
Agriculture: Africa has large tracts of very fertile land which sometime remain uncultivated or are tilled sub optimally (except under cash crop regions). One needs small farm machinery to empower small fabricators and tillers to perform timely operations. India has a large number of innovations in both formal and informal sector. These may be shared in open source by India acquiring their IP rights if applicable from inventors. Instead of focussing on chemical tech based green revolution, sustainable or ever green revolution must be the focus which India is trying with in the country as well. Agrobiodiversity in Africa has proved to be extremely important for finding genes for disease, pest resistance as well as productivity improvement under climatic stress and , low external input, rainfed conditions. Mutual visits of innovative farmers/mechanics as tried by SRISTI in Kenya, needs to be encouraged to create people to people learning network. Several grassroots innovators visited South Africa and Kenya and shared their insights, innovations and skills, can we not do it both ways at a much larger scale.
India can also take up contract farming jointly with local farmers for pulses and oilseeds with buyback assurance to meet mutual needs. In situ value addition should be strongly encouraged so Indian market can provide huge growth impulse in Africa. Joint venture among Indian and African small entrepreneurs should be facilitated by avoid double taxation treaties.
Linking top engineering, management and technical institutions of higher learning, mutual cross-cultural capacity building can be encouraged. India needs to join hands for frugal engineering, food and agri/herbal product value chains. India should provide large scale fellowships to students in science and technology disciplines. Various African science and technology academies may be affiliated with Indian academies of S, T and even Innovations in future.
Joint research programs in strategic areas to harness mutual strengths will be a differentiating feature of Indian engagement model. Unlike some other big countries, which provide turnkey infra projects without building much local capacity, Indian ventures must insist on that. Ironically, some of these countries have taken long term concessions in minerals and natural resources in Africa in lieu of aid. Land grab is another area of serious concern in Africa which must be learned from. India must see this engagement as a long term investment in leadership development. Indian must host young political and other leaders for leadership and institution building programs in not just banking but also other sectors. The mutual links forged during the program may sustain mutual goodwill and promote cooperation at different levels globally.
Indian growth story much be globally inclusive. With broader and longer term vision, India must aspire to become a world leader in being the largest provider of open source solutions for Afgrica and elsewhere. This will be completely non-exploitative model of developmental partnership that India alone can nurture in an increasingly protectionist world.