Economic relations between South Africa and India blossoming

10th May 2013 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Bilateral trade between South Africa and India increased by 135% between 2007/8 and 2011/12, while Indian companies have invested $328.25-million in this country over the past five years. This was recently reported by Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre CEO Sujata Sudarshan in Johannesburg.
“You all know how much South Africa was networked into Europe and the Western world. But times are changing,” highlighted Indian High Commissioner to South Africa Virendra Gupta.

Emerging countries are now playing a greater role in the global economy. “There is a very rapidly growing economic and commercial relationship [between India and South Africa]. Hardly a week passes by without us hearing about a new investment decision, either by a South African com- pany in India or an Indian company in South Africa. The relationship has not reached a plateau.”
Frontier Advisory director and head of India Abdullah Verachia pointed out that there are now 110 substantial Indian companies doing business in South Africa. He added that India was forecast to be the world’s fastest growing economy over the period 2006 to 2020. The country was already Asia’s third largest economy (fourth largest in purchasing power parity terms). In terms of incoming foreign direct investment, India ranked second in Asia, after China.
“What’s driving the growth of India? The significant increase in foreign investment into India. Increased domestic consumer spending. Global opportunities for Indian corporates [the development of Indian multinationals]. In South Africa, Indian companies have become household names,” he explained.

Economic reforms have resulted in a big increase in the size of the Indian middle class. “It’s unprecedented,” enthused Verachia. “India will be a winner because of democracy, sustainability and the demographic dividend [young population, younger than China’s]. The [Indian] economy continues to grow because of the spirit of entrepreneurship found in many parts of the country.”
Verachia stressed that South Africa enjoyed a special relationship with India, which included the fact that the great Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi spent many years in South Africa and fought for civil rights in this country, developing many of his ideas here. There was also a common colonial/imperial past which meant that the two economies had similar structures. And, politically, there was a long-term relationship between South Africa’s ruling African National Congress and the Indian National Congress (more commonly called the Congress Party) which is currently in power in India.
South Africa currently ranks number two in the list of African exporters to India. Nigeria is in first place, and Angola is third. In fourth lies the Republic of Congo (that is, Congo-Brazzaville) while fifth place is taken by Tanzania. Whereas African/India trade totalled $1-billion in 2008, in 2008 it amounted to $42.8-billion. “The economies of India and Africa are so similar in nature,” averred Verachia. “I think Africa today is where India was in the early 1990s. There are a number of lessons we can take both ways.”
Sudarshan, Gupta and Verachia were all speaking during a recent seminar on the “role of the Indian diaspora in deepening economic and commercial ties with India” co-organised by the Indian High Commission and the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) at the GIBS campus in Johannesburg.