Focus on developing business relations with India during South African President’s visit


South Africa has been in the thick of narratives in India at least from the time when Gandhi, as a young lawyer practicing in South Africa in the early years of 20th century, commenced a movement against apartheid in South Africa.

Africa saw Indian diaspora converging to its shores long before China, in very recent past, made up its mind to explore Africa for its business gains. Yet Indians failed to create the kind of business links with African nations that China has done in the field of infrastructure, mining, oil and natural gas.

China even went on to develop series of important ports in Africa on the western and eastern coast right up till Mediterranean and built rail linkages to connect those ports. India got serious about building a robust institutional, industrial and transport infrastructure in growth poles in Africa when Asia Africa Growth Corridor – a joint initiative of India and Japan – was launched as late as in May 2017. Even then nothing significant has been achieved so far.

When His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, came on a visit to India as a State Guest of Honour for Republic Day 2019, the focus was very much on developing business relations with the country. South African President was accompanied by a high level delegation including nine Ministers, senior officials of his Government and a 50-member business delegation, which interacted with leading Indian businessmen, resulting in several delegation level talks, exchange of agreements and a meeting of India-South Africa Business Forum held in New Delhi.

India and South Africa enjoy a close and multifaceted strategic partnership since 1997, which is underpinned by historic, cultural and economic linkages. Several high-level visits have been exchanged in the recent past, including visit of Prime Minister for the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. About 1.5 million Indian Origin People live in South Africa and form an enduring link.

Economic relations between South Africa and India nations have flourished since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 90s. India is among the top five trading partners of South Africa. The value of bilateral trade has increased three fold from US$2.5 billion in 2003-2004 to US$ 7.5 billion in 2008-2009. During the visit of President Zuma to India, both sides agreed to work towards a target of US$ 10 billion in bilateral trade by 2012. The trade target was revised to US$ 15 billion by 2014 during the visit of Indian Commerce and Industry Minister to South Africa in early 2011. However, the bilateral trade between the two countries stood at US$ 10.65 billion in 2018-19, up from US$ 9.38 billion in 2017-18.

In recent years, both countries have developed close cooperation in the areas of vocational training, capacity building etc. Both countries share a common vision on a range of global issues and closely cooperate in various multilateral fora: UN, BRICS, G-20, Commonwealth, IORA and the IBSA.

Over the decades, about 150 Indian companies have invested in South Africa employing over 20,000 locals. These include investment by the Indian companies including Tata (automobiles, IT, hospitality, and ferrochrome plant), UB Group (breweries, hotels), Mahindra (automobiles) and a number of pharmaceutical companies, including Ranbaxy, CIPLA, etc. as well as IT companies have find South Africa as their preferred destination.

The South African investments in India have been led by ACSA (up gradation of Mumbai airport), SAB Miller (breweries), SANLAM and Old Mutual (insurance), ALTECH (set top boxes), Adcock Ingram (pharmaceuticals), Rand Merchant Bank (banking) also have grown over the years in India.

India largely imports gold, steam coal, copper ores and concentrates, phosphoric acid, manganese ore, aluminium ingots and other minerals from South Africa where

There exists great potential for trade growth between the two countries including in areas such as vehicles and components thereof, transport equipment, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, footwear, dyes and intermediates, chemicals, textiles, rice, and gems and jewellery, etc.

Scope for developing trade in many of the aforementioned areas was discussed during the visit of His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa to India. He also delivered the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture organized by Indian Council of World Affairs under IBSA framework as a part of the celebrations of the 15th Anniversary of IBSA.

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