The in-principle decision to permit duty-free imports from Africa to India, as reported in Mint today, is a giant step in Indian economic diplomacy. It’s important to look beyond mere trade numbers for the next couple of years; it opens the possibility of Africa exporting manufactures, a cherished dream of African leaders from Kwame Nkrumah to Sam Nujoma.
Mint had earlier argued in an editorial (6 February) for India taking such a step. Not only to counter China’s march in that continent, but also to further India’s longstanding friendly ties with African nations.
If in the bargain India gets access to African natural resources, all the better. But that should not be the sole determinant of expanding economic ties. Africa needs Indian help. As experts testify, help in overcoming technological barriers would be a precious gift. India has a sound track record in indigenously developing technologies in the face of control regimes. It’s time it shared this prowess with Africa.