INTERNATIONAL – Your Excellency, Prime Minister Modi, honourable ministers and deputy ministers, esteemed business Leaders, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this important forum, which brings together business people who are committed to the economic growth and development of our two countries.
South Africa and India have a partnership that spans over two centuries dating as far back as the 1800s.
Ours is a relationship embedded in the history of shared struggle and common colonial subjugation.
This partnership is now anchored in common values and a shared vision of social and economic emancipation for all our people.
In the two decades since the first visit to India by (former) president Nelson Mandela, our countries have worked to transform a relationship forged in struggle into a partnership for peace and economic prosperity.
The commitment to achieve this goal is articulated in the Red Fort Declaration on Strategic Partnership between our two countries.
In reference to the significance of this declaration, Mandela said: “The Red Fort Declaration serves as a clarion call for the developing world to mobilise resources in support of a new agenda aimed at economic development and growth, harmony and unity amongst nations of the South.”
It was a vision that recognised the interdependence and common destiny of the countries on the periphery of global economic activity.
This call to action is as relevant today as it was when it was signed 22 years ago.
We can be pleased that we have made inroads in creating a place for countries of the global south in the international community.
Today, India and South Africa co-operate in multilateral formations such as BRICS, the IBSA (Dialogue Forum), G20 and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation.
As we enter a new era of this partnership, we should strive to forge a developmental path paved with pragmatism and a renewed sense of purpose, because the challenges we face have become greater and more complex.
We continue to face great levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment, particularly among women and the youth.
We are confronted with significant changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We have to contend with rapid environmental changes, which threaten our biodiversity and agricultural production.
We have to increase our production capacity while taking into account the changing and increasingly unstable nature of the international trading environment.
However, while these rapid changes create challenges, we must not be blinded to the opportunities that lie behind and in the midst of such difficulties. There remain many unexplored opportunities that can propel us to a better tomorrow.
South Africa and India have complementaries and comparative advantages which can be exploited for mutual benefit, particularly in trade, investment, technical exchanges in information and communications technology, and skills development.
India is an important destination for South African exports and is our fifth-largest global market for goods.
I am pleased to note the steady increase in trade between our respective countries, from R80billion to R107bn over a five-year period from 2013 to 2017.
This progress is the result of the broadening of economic space for bilateral trade, increased competitiveness in our respective industries, and our strategic co-operation in fora such as BRICS, which have targeted programmes for increasing trade and investment.
I welcome the current initiatives by our respective ministers of trade to increase bilateral trade and to explore sector-specific collaboration to boost our manufacturing and trade relations – with an emphasis on increasing trade in value-added goods and services.
South Africa’s investment relationship with India has also deepened, with more than 150 Indian companies operating in South Africa.
Companies such as Tata, Cipla and Mahindra have found a home in South Africa.
We recognise and appreciate Vedanta Resources’ investment of $1.6bn (R21.8bn) in the Gamsberg Zinc mine in the Northern Cape, of which $400million has already been spent.
This investment by Vedanta has triggered a new wave of industrial and economic development in that part of our country.
We successfully hosted the inaugural South Africa Investment Conference last year and are heartened by the commitment shown to South Africa’s development by companies from India and elsewhere.
As government we are cognisant of the need to intensify our efforts to create an enabling environment for business to thrive.
To this end, we have finalised a new Mining Charter and have provided a detailed plan on the country’s future energy requirements.
We have also signed a number of renewable energy supply agreements to address challenges in a sector that is critical for our economy’s growth.
We are taking policy certainty and consistency very seriously and we act decisively and with speed whenever concerns are raised about these.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to attain the goals set out in Africa’s socio-economic developmental blue print, Agenda 2063. Africa is a continent of opportunity.
We are therefore encouraged by India’s commitment to the development of the African continent though the India-Africa Forum.
This forum must embolden Indian companies to form partnerships with South Africa’s financial institutions and the private sector to jointly collaborate on projects that can build Africa’s productive capacity and infrastructure.
The outcome of this forum was a portfolio of investment projects throughout the African continent that are ready for partnerships with global investors, including those from India.
We have also signed the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will promote intra-Africa trade and create larger economies of scale, a bigger market and improve the continent’s prospects to attract investment.
It is our desire to see Indian companies that are investing in South Africa also benefiting from the vast opportunities that this agreement will bring.
We recognise and appreciate the reforms undertaken by India on improving the investment environment, which will encourage more South African companies to enter the Indian market.
We currently have 29 South African companies invested in India and wish to double this number in the coming years.
South African firms with a presence in India include Sanlam, Life Healthcare, Momentum, Airports Company of SA, FirstRand Bank, Old Mutual and Naspers, among others.
Trade that is led by investments is where our future growth lies. I am very pleased with the outcomes of the deliberations held today between our respective business people and am looking forward to announcements of South African investments in India as I am looking forward to new and further Indian investments in South Africa.
Let us take these commitments forward to build a prosperous South Africa and a prosperous India with opportunities for all our people.
This is an edited version of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address at the South Africa-India Business Forum in New Delhi.
– THE MERCURY