Project funded by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India on

Labour and Capital Migration from
India to Africa and Emerging Global Responsibilities

Duration: 2012-2016

[Scroll down for M.A and PhD application details]

The last two decades have seen a realignment of both politics and economics in the world order. What had appeared to be constant and unchanging – the dominance of Europe and the USA – can now be seen to be in a state of creative flux. The emergence of powerful economies like India, China, Brazil and Russia and both regional as well as transnational blocs like the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) has meant that strategic considerations have veered to a consideration of the Global South: the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The intellectual programme as much as the political and economic clout of the South was evident in the recently concluded (some would say inconclusive) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting at Copenhagen in late 2009. The financial crisis (2007 to the present) precipitated in the US and with global repercussions has had less of an impact on economies such as India and China though it is still early to tell. In Africa, both Indian and Chinese investment has proceeded apace and there has been considerable movement of capital and labour.

If there is one factor that characterizes the contemporary period it is the large scale migration of people (both as labour and as professionals) that is happening under the carapace of a global capitalism whose centre is now by no means clear. This necessitates an urgent attention towards the energies developing in the Global South and the creation of research programmes, data bases and new forms of knowledge that will help us address the future. The role that nations like India and China will play in the coming decades cannot be understood with mere projections and speculations (such as are rife in the world of financial journalism).

The project will concentrate on three themes:

  1. Capital investment and business activity :we wish to establish a wide ranging and reliable data base on three areas: direct investment by Indian companies in Africa and the Middle East; entrepreneurial activity by mercantile groups and individual (immigrant) business people; and the economic activities of local Indian communities that have settled in Africa in the modern historical period.Since no reliable data base and comprehensive data exists on such activity the initial research would focus on constructing such a data base which will be cost and labour intensive.This would involve accessing and verifying information from the internet on an ongoing basis (daily or weekly); the trawling through publications by governments, private agencies and world organizations like the IMF and World Bank; detailed on-the-ground interviews and ethnography; as well as establishing connections with local institutions in east and north Africa and the Middle East.
  2. Labour migration : one of the significant characteristics of the 20thcentury which has accelerated at present is the transnational movement of labour (both professional as well as labouring classes) and the emergence of nodes like Dubai which attract workers from all over the world, and India in particular.Here again, while numbers of immigrants/emigrants are available there is a paucity of quantitative and qualitative data relating to migration (from where, for what reasons, rates of return etc); conditions of work; regimes of law and contract; conduits of labour supply and so on.Creating a data base of this kind would be crucial given India’s significant interests and presence in the region, both for academic output as much as government policy.The question of the vast Indian diaspora needs grounding in hard statistical data as much as qualitative research.
  3. Global responsibility:As India emerges as a significant power with a voice not only in global economic and political affairs but also as a key player in the debates about the future environmental and social security of the planet we need a consideration of the ethical and political responsibilities involved in relation to the above themes.What exactly is the role that IBSA or the BRIC as a bloc can play?
    What are the responsibilities entailed in the emerging world order where the new powers of the Global South have become significant players?
    And what are the prospects for co-operation rather than conflict to create security in and around the Indian Ocean?

We have appointed as of January 2013, an Associate Professor Prof Sharad Chari and Assistant Professor Dr Christopher Lee as well as four PhD and two Masters students.