Why India should help Africa become United States of Africa
Africa is a continent across the Indian Ocean with great assets, huge opportunities as well as insurmountable challenges. Sixty percent of the land is arable, but uncultivated. There are no systems of intercontinental railways and roadways. Although there are great rivers, there is no hydro-electricity generation and no waterways. The immense oil reserves are ravaged by violent conflicts. There is no electricity grid, not many hospitals, very few universities and colleges, but millions of immensely talented people waiting to receive higher education and skills. India is a natural partner in all of this and it is indeed its destiny to help Africa rise and take its rightful place in the modern world.
My tryst with Africa naturally started with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (1931-2015). In 2004, I was assigned a pivotal role to bring 24 Tanzanian children with congenital heart defects to India for surgery. They were flown free of charge by Air India with their mothers and accompanying doctors and nurses, and operated upon free by Care Hospital. I assisted President Kalam in conceptualizing the Pan-Africa eNetwork and got its fist link operational between Black Lion Hospital, Addis Ababa and Care Hospital, Hyderabad. Later, I met Mahesh Patel (b. 1955), an Indian-African and the Chairman of Export Trading Corporation (ETG), one of the largest and fastest growing integrated agricultural conglomerates present across the African continent, and he made me an integral part of his missions.
Over a span of many years, I went to South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia and the island African nations of Mauritius and Seychelles and am blessed with great friends everywhere. I have read all major books written on Africa, most notably by Basil Davidson (1914-2010), John Reader (b. 1937), Martin Meredith (b. 1942), and Richard Dowden (b. 1949) and felt at heart the term ‘black consciousness’ first used by William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois (1868-1963). He famously wrote, “After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son,…”
I see African people as ‘different but equal’. They are our natural neighbours and our most trusted allies in the post-western world. India and Africa will rise together in the emerging parallel order – New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (to complement the World Bank), Universal Credit Rating Group (to complement Moody’s and S&P), RuPay (to complement Mastercard and Visa), CIPS (to complement SWIFT), and the BRICS (to complement the G7). Many other Indian success stories can be repeated in Africa. HAL and Tatas can be Africa’s aviation partners; ONGC and Reliance, oil partners; ISRO, their space partner; BEL, their electronics partner; BHEL, the hydro-electricity partner; NPCIL, the Nuclear Electricity partner; and NABARD, NSC and IFFCO, their agriculture partners.
The dream of the United States of Africa belongs to Jamaican-born African-American Marcus Garvey Jr. (1887–1940). Almost single-handedly, he created a ‘Back to Africa’ movement in the United States of his times, touring the country and urging African-Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa. In his poem ‘Hail! United States of Africa’ published in 1924, Marcus Garvey wrote:
Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be…
From Liberia’s peaceful western coast
To the foaming Cape at the southern end,
There’s but one law and sentiment sublime, One flag, and its emblem of which, we boast…
Africa in the 21st century ought to mean a Pan-African economy, at par with the European Union – the United States of Africa would operate under one Schengen-like visa, one African currency and free intra-trade system across the continent. Through my hundreds of interactions with African people over a decade and travels in the continent, I have realized that Africa has much more to give to the world and to the people than it has taken or would ever take from others. India can indeed beat the drum and lead the parade, when Africa marches on to become USA-2.
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