Even after two Indo-African Forum summits, India’s plans for enmeshing Africa’s future with a handful of projects are still on paper and a majority of its ambitious plans in economic and capacity-building sectors are stuck due to either fund crunch or time overruns.
India had started the India-Africa Forum Summit in 2008, when 14 African heads of states came to Delhi - giving a visible demonstration of Indian engagement with the continent. The last edition of the summit held in Addis Ababa in 2011 also set an ambitious agenda.
In both the two summits, the main buzzword of India’s foray into Africa had been ‘capacity-building’, with plans to build or develop over two dozen technical and vocational institutes at the pan-African, regional and bilateral levels. India had also offered the African nations scores of training programmes in oil, gas sector and oncology.
As per official records, the estimated cost for various projects announced in the last two summits is around Rs 6,000 crore.
So far, only one of those institutions is near completion - the India-Africa Institute of Education Planning and Administration - which will be inaugurated in Burundi in August. This had been announced at the 2008 summit, with an MoU signed in 2011.
“There are a few more projects on the pipeline. We will try to complete as many as we can before the next summit (in 2014),” said a senior MEA official.
But, with most of the government ministries, including the MEA, reeling under fund crunch, the aid to Africa had also faced a similar fate. In 2012-13, the category of aid to African countries was allotted a budget of `250 crore, but it was reduced to `237.5 crore in the revised estimates. But, the ministry was not able to utilise the entire amount.
For the 2013-14 fiscal, the MEA wanted `1,603 crore for the same, but it was allotted just `300 crore.
With the MEA facing the financial pinch for last couple of years, it has tried to manage its projects by delaying the payment till the next cycle. This was also admitted by the ministry to the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs in its queries during the preparation of the report on the Demand for Grants.
Further, out of the total lines of credit worth over $5 billion, about $2 billion has been disbursed so far.
According to officials, the projects and programmes have also been plagued by bureaucratic delays from the African side. The African Union had to take the decision on the location of the various institutes, which took some time in deliberation. Then, the onus has been put on the host country to provide the land and the building, as well as, bear the recurring costs.
The Indian government would thereafter, establish and equip the institutions for a period of three years, before handing it over to the host country.
In fact, the search for land in economically booming Africa is sometimes so troublesome.