Briefing Paper

Project: Africa Programme

Elizabeth Sidiropoulos
  • The engagement of India and South Africa in Africa can be explained as much by the shifts in global power and realpolitik as by their desire to be seen to be playing a positive developmental role and shouldering global responsibilities.
  • India articulates its Africa policy through a national-interest prism, especially with regard to energy security, trade and terrorism. Development cooperation is a byproduct of its engagement in Africa rather than a central driving force.
  • South Africa is currently reassessing how it articulates its national interest in the context of its African agenda. It sees India's engagement in Africa in a positive light, especially its focus on human-resource development, ICT and agriculture.
  • While cooperation between the two countries may be possible in certain areas such as the India Brazil South Africa Forum (IBSA), in others it may be too politically sensitive for them to be perceived to be working together. Both aim to advance their commercial interests on the continent, which implies an element of rivalry.
  • There is scope for deepening the substance of political and economic relations between India and South Africa, which has been hampered by capacity constraints on both sides and differing priorities. Development cooperation between the two in Africa is not a priority for either but using the private sector in this field is an important potential model.