A growing debate concerns the developmental implications of booming relations between ‘Southern’ powers and countries across Africa. Whilst mainstream commentary worries about nefarious influences, others explore supposedly increasing ‘African agency’, a term capturing the ability of African states to define their international relations. South-South Cooperation, given its supposed principles asserting sovereignty, non-interventionism, and demand-led projects, is understood to boost such agency. This article analyses such claims with a detailed case study of Indian governmental infrastructure financing in Africa, the Nyabarongo Dam in Rwanda, filling a significant gap concerning under-researched India–Africa relations. Originally, South-South cooperation was rooted in a programme that combined technical cooperation with a radical political critique of global power and a call for reform. However, this study of India’s concessional finance suggests that in its twenty-first century manifestation, South-South Cooperation is often decoupled from a political programme, leaving only open-ended, depoliticized state-to-state cooperation initiatives. The article demonstrates that whilst India’s development cooperation generated useful opportunities, it acted to empower companies and exacerbated the Rwandan state’s structural regulatory weaknesses. The article traces this to the policymaking practices of India’s development cooperation, showing that a decoupling of political ambitions results in a narrow state-to-state focus with an abdication of responsibility for development outcomes, marginalizing accountability to average African citizens.
Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms
- Global Development Institute