April will forever resonate in the history of our nation as the month that saw the first democratic elections in 1994 that gave birth to freedom and constitutional democracy in South Africa. This election marked the turning point that saw the previously disadvantaged became part of the South
African political dispensation. South Africa now belongs to all who live in it.
South Africa is grateful to have India as both friend and partner. The foundations of bilateral relations between South Africa and India were laid by giants like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. The principles and values espoused by them throughout their lives continue to shape the ties between the two countries. In today’s world, both countries are working together to make sure that the voices of the poor and the weak do not go unheard. Both the countries are members of vibrant international forums like IBSA, G77+ China, G20 and BRICS that are driving the growth engine of the world economy.
On the economic front, our bilateral trade for 2011-2012 was $15.7 billion. South Africa’s exports to India during the same year were $10.9 billion and imports were $4.8 billion. However, this trade volume decreased to $11 billion during 2013-2014 mainly on account of worldwide the Economic slowdown. This volume of trade can be maximised given our relations and the business potential and opportunities available in both countries. Our political principals have set a target of $18 billion bilateral trade by 2018. This is achievable with proactive engagement by both our governments and business stakeholders.
Most of the exports from South Africa to India are primary commodities and raw materials. Gold, coal and minerals dominate the major bulk of our export basket to India. We need to change this to value added products and services. India can help us in this regard.
South Africa offers tremendous investment opportunities in almost every field of business and trade. Many Indian companies have already invested in South Africa but we need more of them. Indian companies could seek investment opportunities in engineering, energy mostly solar and wind, housing, healthcare, hotels and tourism, film and entertainment, publications, IT, biotechnology, medicines and automotive sectors. These are the fields in which India has the potential and interest to go abroad to invest. South African companies have also entered India and doing business in mining, energy, food, infrastructure, finance and entertainment among others. More and more companies from South Africa are looking for opportunities in India encouraged by the many opportunities arising from the “Make in India” initiative.
IBSA and BRICS are the most vibrant economic groups today in which India and South Africa assume great importance. All these groups have been deliberating on a variety of issues connected with world politics, economics and business and its role to maintain a better world order.
The tourism industry is one of the focus sectors for the South African Government. Over the next 20 years, international tourist arrivals in emerging-economy destinations are expected to grow at double the pace (four per cent) of advanced-economy destinations (projected at two per cent). As a result, arrivals in emerging economies will likely surpass those in advanced economies by 2015.
Tourism has also brought the people of South Africa and India closer to each other. Currently, South Africa receives over 1,00 000 tourists from India, a growth of 18.2 per cent since 2012, making India South Africa’s eighth largest overseas source market. This is not much, as compared to the potential that the Indian market offers. India is the third largest market in Asia and the number of Indians travelling overseas is set to rise from around 15 million today to 50 million by 2020.We see this as a great opportunity to attract Indian investors to explore avenues in the tourism sector. Our new immigration policy gives business executives from BRICS nations a business visa up to 10years, depending on validity of the passport and an extended validity for intra company work permits.
Further, the immigration policy makes it easier to get study permits and tourist visas, and residence permits (for life partners). VFS Global has launched seven Visa Application Centres (VACs) for South Africa in India, which are operational. This is a positive development since it extends the convenience of a seamless visa application process for our valued tourists in India. The world is changing and countries such as India and South Africa should also follow the path of progress to earn a decent livelihood for its people. This is only possible with a bigger role by the business community.
The author is Deputy High Commissioner, South African High Commission