India-South Africa Business Records New High in 2007

A visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the highlight of a year filled with high-level business exchanges between India and South Africa.

Manmohan Singh joined host President Thabo Mbeki and Brazilian President Lula da Silva at an IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) summit in Pretoria in October to call for a "fair and acceptable" resolution to the WTO Doha talks. The leaders said developed countries needed to agree to substantial and effective cuts in their trade and commit to real and new trade flows in agriculture.

A huge delegation of Indian government officials, businessmen, editors and leaders from other fields participated in a host of peripheral events.

Barely two months earlier, Indian Minister of State for Industry Ashwini Kumar had led a huge contingent of captains of business and industry to "India Calling 2007", where the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) also marked its centenary.

For the first time in South Africa, the Women's Wing of the IMC presented their Call of the Peacock Exhibition of work by women only.

Kumar said capitalising on their shared histories and commonalities to become global leaders would ensure that the honours this century go to India and South Africa.

South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the same meet that India's assistance in skills-transfer would assist South Africa in the eradication of poverty and encourage economic growth.

Kumar was back again a few months later to inaugurate INDEE 2007, organised by the Indian Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC), where an unprecedented 175 Indian small and medium enterprises exhibited their wares.

But he expressed some concern: "We have to date received only about $68 million of South African investment in India and South Africa has received only $100 million of investment from India. I think this is way below the potential of the two countries."

Kumar also inaugurated the first India Engineering Centre (IEC) in South Africa, established by the EEPC, which is also only the second one in the world after Chicago.

The IEC will provide a showcase for products and catalogues, marketing offices, and warehousing facilities at a nominal cost to Indian manufacturers, said EEPC Chairman Rakesh Shah.

Indian IT companies were also out in force at South Africa's major annual IT expo, Futurex, where the first ever India Day started the event in May.

"The present ICT scene in South Africa offers numerous sub-sectors where natural compatibility with India's strengths can be promoted," High Commissioner Rajeev Bhatia said at Futurex.

At the annual trade expo "SAITEX", which previously attracted large Indian contingents, there were fewer participants this year, but the Spices Board of India was there in force.

"South Africa is now the biggest market on the continent for export of Indian spices and spice products, perhaps because it has such a large population of Indian origin people. It also provides an excellent gateway to other countries in Africa," said G.K. Vidyashankar, assistant director of marketing at the Spices Board.

In developments which involved Indian banks in South Africa, the State Bank of India moved swiftly to dismiss speculation that it was planning to take over Capitec Bank, a rapidly-developing small bank in the country.

The Bank of Baroda was lauded by Minister in the Office of the Presidency Essop Pahad for being the only institution of its kind willing to open offices in many developing nations in Africa.

Indian businessmen who travel to and through South Africa and those working here for the many Indian companies that have come up in the region will also find it easier after concessions announced in the latter part of 2007.

"Indian nationals will no longer require transit visas when travelling through South Africa to other countries in the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region," said government spokesperson Jerry Matjila, adding that the duration of work permits for South Africa had been increased from two to four years.

Matjila said the South African government had also noted the complaint about the turnaround time for the issue of visas at its missions in both Mumbai and New Delhi. "We are now increasing capacities to deal with the visa regime," he said.

The Indian consulate-general in Johannesburg, until last year faced with similar complaints, has already implemented a 24-hour turnaround plan, which has been lauded by South African businessmen.

Finally, on the business front in South Africa, London-based Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal was rated the richest man in South Africa in the annual Sunday Times Rich List because of his assets in the former state-owned steel-giant Iscor that he bailed out a few years ago and eventually took over. 

However, Mittal's company here, now called ArcelorMittal SA, was slapped with a record 700 million rand ($100 million) fine by the Competition Tribunal here as part of its remedial actions after it found in March this year that the company was guilty of anti-competitive practices.     


More by :  Fakir Hassen

Top | Opinion

Views: 3304      Comments: 0

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.