JOHANNESBURG: Delegates and industry leaders from India and South Africa have discussed ways to expand the trade relationship between the two countries and mooted the reintroduction of direct flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai.
The two-day India-South Africa Business Summit 2018 (ISABS 2018) saw scores of noted speakers and distinguished experts and diplomats from the two countries participating in parallel discussions on startups, automobile industry, healthcare and pharma, mining, agro-processing, women entrepreneurs in business and the fourth industrial revolution.
Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation, lauded the efforts of the High Commission of India and various South African government departments including the Department of Trade and Industry in organising the summit in the run-up to the BRICS Summit in July 2018.
"South Africa has a strategic relationship with India. Our bilateral trade is growing and has increased from R68 million in 2012 to Rs 107 million in 2018.
Investments has also grown seeing 130 Indian firms investing in South Africa and 29 South African FDIs in India for R10 billion," said South African Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies.
In her remarks, High Commissioner Ruchira Kamboj said the India-South Africa partnership goes beyond the "undeniably unbreakable ties of solidarity" that have linked the people and the liberation movements of the two countries.
"This partnership was also about a shared future through synergies, shared strengths and membership in multilateral settings where the two countries seek constantly to engage, deliberate and collaborate," Kamboj said.
Cautioning against the summit becoming just another 'talkshop', Prabhu has tasked a team led by the India-South Africa CEOs Forum to present an action plan to implement all the suggestions at the summit by the time he comes back for the BRICS summit in July.
The summit also witnessed the signing of an MOU between Invest SA and Invest India, strengthening a rapidly growing economic and trade partnership between the two strategic partner countries.
A CII sponsored white paper was also released, showing the good work being done by Indian businesses in South Africa, with a strong focus on localisation to skill South Africans in a collaborative spirit for mutually beneficial growth and progress.
One of the biggest concerns expressed by delegates from both countries was about the lack of a direct flight between Johannesburg and Mumbai, resulting in long delays.
Prabhu emphasised that most airlines in India had been privatised but promised to look into the matter, as did South African Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, under whose jurisdiction the state-owned enterprise South African Airways (SAA) falls.
Air India, SAA and Jet Airways all stopped direct flights between the two commercial hubs at various stages in the past decade, citing they were commercially unviable.