FIDC policy brief #2

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Abstract: 

India-Africa cooperation in agriculture Science, technology and innovation: New avenues and opportunities

Introduction India and Africa share a long history of friendship and cooperation and are viewed as two prominent developing regions of the world. India is now a key trading partner of Sub-Saharan Africa, importing almost US$ 21 billion worth of goods and commodities and exporting goods of over US$ 10 billion to Africa in 2010.1 India’s development cooperation with Africa expanded significantly in 2005, when India became the first Asian country to become a full member of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) which is based in Harare. The ACBF has emerged as one of the premier organisations for sustainable development and poverty alleviation for Africa. India has contributed US$ 1 million for strengthening the work programme at the ACBF.2

Given the huge landscape and diversities, both the regions have immense potential for growth. The recent OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook (2013- 2022) projects that the developing countries are expected to be the leading source of demand for agricultural products.3 However, as is evident from the ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World’ Report, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of under-nourishment, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa show slow progress.4 Both the regions are facing certain common challenges. The most common of these challenges are, of course, related to food and nutrient security, enhancement of productivity, reduction of losses and raising the economic returns for the farmers. The other important challenge relates to using technology to improve productivity and applying modern biotechnology for developing varieties with specific traits to meet the diverse needs of farmers in different agro-climatic zones. Since the agroclimatic conditions are similar in the two regions, with common challenges confronting the agricultural sector, Africa and India can opt for similar approaches in addressing them.

These common challenges and trajectories give huge complementarity for tapping the Africa- India cooperation in various fields for finding out common solutions. Towards this, the first India- Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) was held in New Delhi in 2008. This Summit led to the issuance of Africa-India Framework for Cooperation, of which the pronouncement of Africa-India Science and Technology Initiative holds great significance, as it played a major role towards institutionalising Africa- India Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) cooperation. This sort of cooperation is primarily based on the idea of sharing Indian experiences and best practices in the field of STI with Africa. As it emerges from the following discussion, along with the technology transfer and capacity building in the areas such as infrastructure, education and training, there is also a need for making concerted efforts towards creating an institutional framework for facilitating partnerships across academics and institutions.

Broad S&T cooperation framework

The Africa-India STI cooperation offers an opportunity for agricultural growth through valueaddition to agricultural produce. This may also need bilateral cooperation for facilitating the application of scientific knowledge along with promoting the entrepreneurial activities in the two regions.5 In this context, the established mechanisms need to be explored. For instance, the IAFS-1 in 2008 set the ball rolling through setting up of the Africa-India Science and Technology Initiative, under which the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) broadly outlined the contours of Africa-India collaborative engagements in consultation with the African Union (AU).

These included organising India-Africa S&T Ministers Conference, strengthening of S&T institutions in Africa, transfer of appropriate technologies, training and provision of educational fellowships.6 The IAFS-2, held at Addis Ababa in 2011, adopted the Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation, which resulted in establishment of the India-Africa Technology Partnership Programme (IATPP) through the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The objective was to create a mechanism to facilitate transfer of Indian technology to the African nations, build long term science and technology partnerships, create an enabling environment for Indian industries to gain access to African markets, and build capacity in the recipient nations to absorb the new technologies through: (a) partnership development activities studies/research/web portal; (b) capacity building, i.e. technology management training programme and intellectual property rights training programme; and (c) technology transfer and deployment.7 Regarding cooperation in the agriculture sector the statement issued in 2011 stated as follows:

“Africa and India reaffirm their commitment to cooperate for increasing agricultural output and achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition by 2015. They emphasise the importance of harnessing the latest scientific research for raising productivity and for the conservation of land and the environment in order to ensure food security for their people and to bring down the currently rising cost of food prices so as to make food affordable for all. In this respect, they agree to collaborate in the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).”

The first India-Africa S&T Ministers Conference was held in New Delhi on 1-2 March 2012. It was organised by the DST, MEA, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and African Union Commission (AUC). Over 150 delegates from over 40 African countries attended the conference, including 30 African Ministers dealing with S&T, representatives from the African Union Commission, and representatives from the African Regional Economic Communities. In the Joint Declaration issued after the conclusion of this conference, both African and Indian Ministers identified four major areas for cooperation. They are as follows:
• Capacity Building in S&T in Africa
• Improving policy enabling environment
• Human resource development
• Institutional development
• Science, Technology and Innovation for Development
• Knowledge Transfer and Adoption
• Identification of Common Research Priority Areas

India has also been actively involved with many African countries through various platforms. One such important platform is IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa), where India is collaborating with South Africa. The first Meeting of IBSA S&T Working Group under trilateral IBSA MoU was held at Pretoria, South Africa in October 2011, where R&D proposals in identified priority areas for trilateral research and development projects, involving scientists from India, Brazil and South Africa, were invited. Some of these priority areas are: health (HIV,
AIDS, TB, Malaria); biotechnology; indigenous knowledge systems; alternative and renewable energy; ICT and nanotechnology. Box 1 brings out the various other bilateral initiatives launched by the two regions in the realm of STI.