By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg : Thirty Indian companies participated in the annual South African international IT trade fair Futurex 2007 in the first such major foray by Indian ICT companies in this continent.
India was for the first time the partner country at the fair organized from May 15-18 at the Sandton Convention Centre here.
The promotion of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) linkages between India and South Africa by the captains of the industry would lead to long-term mutual benefit for both countries, Indian High Commissioner R.K. Bhatia said during the expo.
"Although historic in nature, it is but the first serious step in deepening mutual awareness and in creating serious business contacts. We hope that this will lead to sizeable business transactions in a mutually beneficial manner in due course."
Bhatia said the participation of more than 30 Indian companies in Futurex was the fulfilment of a commitment he had made to South African President Thabo Mbeki when presenting his credentials two months ago.
"(President Mbeki) pointed in the direction of augmenting linkages between IT companies of India and South Africa. I am happy to convey the willingness – in fact, keenness – of my government and India Inc. to share our success, expertise and experience with you."
Bhatia described as "not a healthy situation at all" the fact that in 2005-06, 88 percent of Indian ICT exports went to North America and Europe and less than half a percent of these exports found their way to Africa.
"In the specific India-South Africa context, India's ICT exports in the same year to South Africa were valued at about $73 million. One can assume that, taking into account South Africa's ICT linkages with India, the overall trade figure could be about or over $100 million.
"Going by the experience of Indian companies already present in South Africa such as TCS, Satyam, Ramco, Zensar, Nihilent Technologies etc, the main promising areas of cooperation are software products for banking, insurance, telecom, power, healthcare, e-governance and several other sectors, IT education and training and, electronics hardware products for IT and telecom sectors.
The present ICT scene in South Africa offers numerous sub-sectors where natural compatibility with India's strengths can be promoted."
Bhatia stressed close and mutually profitable relationship at the institutional level between Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council (ESC), (ESC) of India and Computer Society of South Africa (CSSA) as well as other relevant organizations and regular participation by Indian companies in Futurex and South African companies in IndiaSoft for the next three to five years.
"In regard to (these) elements, my government is willing to play a pro-active and constructive role in helping the industry in every possible way," Bhatia he said.