Why India is banking on health diplomacy to grow African footprint

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Why India is banking on health diplomacy to grow African footprint


In recent years, India HAS MOVEDE ahead with its global ambitions and foreign policy re-engagement with African nations. In 2001, its bilateral trade was $7.2 billion and has increased to $63 billion in 2017-18. Now, India is the 3rd largest export destination and 5th largest investor in the continent.

India has signed numerous new bilateral agreements, while it playing catch-up with China’s commanding presence in Africa. It has also made its diplomatic presence strong and is actively promoting trade, infrastructure and private sector investments.

It is found that New Delhi promotes a substitute model of development which shows the success of its Green Revolution and advances in information, technology & communication. It also highlights its ability to develop “Triple A” technology appropriate, adaptable & affordable. It is assumed that there has been an increased significance in affordable healthcare of India’s expertise during the on-going pandemic. New Delhi is already obtaining the benefits of an ambitious diplomatic initiative to deliver Made-In-India vaccines to developing countries. India is one of the largest drugs producers globally, manufacturing 60% of the world’s vaccines. India has sent these as gifts to many African countries. New Delhi’s capacity & willingness to produce & share covid-19 vaccines have boosted the country’s diplomatic raise and recognition as a global power.

India’s Africa Policy

In Africa, India’s historical footprint differs from that of other powers. Support for African countries was offered by New Delhi in their struggle against colonial rule. The Indo-African partnership followed in the post-colonial period and this was cemented by solidarity with & support for the Non-Aligned movement and the fight against racism.

India also offered support to South Africa in its struggle against the state of being apart. New Delhi points to the presence of sizeable Indian diaspora and their economic contributions on the continent.

Since the early 1990s, India has moved from idealism to pragmatism and the explicit pursuit of commercial interests. The change was driven by robust economic growth at home and the need to access raw materials and new markets.

India’s push for South

South cooperation relies on three broad elements. The first is a shared identity as part of the “Third World”. Second is expertise in cost-effective development technologies. Third is a recurrent articulation of the principles of mutual respect and solidarity.

India since the early 1990s has moved from ideal to practical and the pursuit of commercial interests. The change was bought by the robust economic growth at home and the need to access raw materials and new markets.

The South cooperation relies on the 3 board elements, which are:

  1. Shared identity as part of the “Third World”.
  2. Expertise in cost-effective development technologies.
  3. Recurrent articulation of the principles of mutual respect & solidarity.

The long history of being democratic and its success in reducing poverty & preventing famines have also boosted the legitimacy of its developmental approach in the Global South. The India-Africa partnership since 2018, has been based on a set of principles. These have emphasised “local priorities”.  They call for joint efforts to reform global institutions, combat change and fight global terrorism. They also highlight a few other things such as capacity building for agriculture, digital technology, education and co-operation on peace keeping issues.

Three major areas of collaboration

  1. India’s formidable reputation as the “pharmacy of the world”, as it has actively contributed to meeting the global demand for vaccines and all other types of drugs. Indian products are affordable globally due to its low manufacturing costs. Around 20% of India’s pharmaceuticals exports are to Africa which amount to US$ 17 billion. The largest importers of these Indian medicines are Southern & Western regions of Africa. These mostly include antiretroviral drugs that cost only a fraction of products produced in Western companies.
  2. The capacity building and collaboration in the health sector, as the leading Indian healthcare providers are collaborating with African partners. The Pan-African E-Network since 2009, is supported by India which has offered tele-medicine services, this also connects Indian educational centres & hospitals with their counterparts in Africa. With is amazing medical facilities, which offer services at competitive costs, India has also emerged as an attractive destination for medical tourism.
  3. India’s active medical diplomacy, Africa’s reliance on a cheap supply of essential medicines in addition to an affordable covid-19 vaccine is only likely to increase in the near future.

Future collaboration on health

India is well-amused to share its digital capabilities for improved & accessible access to global healthcare. New Delhi has improved its tele-medicine and online video consultation infrastructure in the continent, which offers a cost-effective & safe option for treating contagious diseases.

India’s partners in the near future may benefit from its online and mobile applications to improve affordability & accessibility of healthcare. To access the information on blood banks, public hospitals and organ donation, online platforms can be used. With the help of mobile applications, people can track the vaccine status of children and disease awareness.

But there are also some challenges that must be resolved. Combating the risk of fraud or lookalike medicines on the African continent is one. In addition to existing measures to curb criminal activity, mobile apps can verify medicines to tackle the problem.

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