Home Economy India for more trade with South Africa

India for more trade with South Africa

By Fakir Hassen, IANS

Johannesburg, Oct 23 (IANS) Although India and South Africa have moved closer on the economic front in recent years, the level of economic engagement can still be significantly improved, India’s Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar told a gathering here Tuesday.

Kumar was inaugurating INDEE 2007, organised by the Indian Engineering Export Promotion Council, where 175 Indian small and medium enterprises are exhibiting their wares for the next three days.

“We have till date received only about $68 million (Rs.2.7 billion) of South African investment in India and South Africa has received only $100 million (Rs.3.96 billion) of investment from India. I think this is way below the potential of the two countries,” Kumar said.

“Events such as INDEE and India Calling (held in Johannesburg in August) this year are intended to give a major boost to the level of economic engagement.”

Referring to the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) Summit between the leaders of the three countries here last week, Kumar said: “The shared commonalities of India and South Africa in the emerging global order only underscore the need for an even more closer and an all-embracing engagement.”

“The geo-strategic and geo-political situation that is developing also compels a more purposive engagement which will only do justice to the common destiny that we are all here to walk towards.”

Indian exports to South Africa have experienced a 46 percent rise in the past few years, twice as much as Indian exports to the rest of the world.

“Even so, the Indo-South African trade engagement accounts for less than two percent of India’s international trade engagement, which is about a quarter of a trillion dollars. We, therefore, do believe a more purposive push has to be given to ensure that the engagement is not symbolic but real and we need to harness all the sectors of our national power towards that end.”

Lauding the participation of 175 small and medium enterprises at INDEE 2007 and the attendance of more than 300 Indians in the event, Kumar said this was “quite decisively a turn in the right direction and this will herald stronger engagement than we have witnessed in the past.”

Kumar said small enterprise skills had become critical to the new world economic order where the focus has shifted from products to production.

“The integration of the workforce of the developing countries with those in developed countries has helped over time to raise the standards of living and education in developing countries. In that context, the skills of today, which is a focus in South Africa and is also a priority in India, acquire utmost importance.

“The small and medium enterprises (from India) that are present in this hall represent the excellence in skills, adaptation of technology and in the production of quality products that can meet global standards,” he added.

Essop Pahad, South African Minister in the Office of the President, said President Mbeki has also paid very special attention to the relationship between India and South Africa, even when he was head of the African National Congress’ Foreign Relations Department while in exile.

“But the question is (whether) the private sectors in India and South Africa, as well as our public or state-owned enterprises, have the will, determination and commitment to build on this wonderful relationship.

“There is a point to which government can go, but it is in your hands to find each other and do the necessary things you need to do in order to achieve the target which the Prime Minister of India has set of raising trade to $15b dollars. Hopefully this exhibition will make a contribution to that.”

Reacting to concerns expressed by Indian businessmen about delays in obtaining visas for South Africa, Pahad reassured them that additional staff was to be sent to the mission there to remedy the situation.

South African Deputy Minister of Trade and Industries, Elizabeth Thabete, thanked the Indian government and business for the role it was playing in the training and development of South African citizens in a range of skills that would also help it to achieve the objectives of improving the living conditions of its people.

Reaffirming the commitment of Indian mission offices across South Africa to facilitate the objectives set out at IBSA, India’s High Commissioner Rajiv Bhatia said events such as INDEE were not intended to buy and sell products and servers but rather to develop long-term partnerships and investments.