SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE INDIA-SOUTH AFRICA BUSINESS FORUM
Pretoria, South Africa , 3rd May, 2012
His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa;
Dr. Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa;
Shri Sachin Pilot, Minister of State for Communication and IT of India;
Dr. Prabha Thakur and Shri Sanjay Dhotre, Members of Parliament of India;
Mr. V.B. Soni, Leader of the Indian Business Delegation;
Ms. N. Majokweni, CEO of Business Unity of South Africa;
Mr. Xolani Qubeka, CEO of Black Business Council;
Distinguished representatives of the business community of India and South Africa;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by conveying my deep appreciation for the presence of President Zuma at this Business Forum. This augurs well not only for this Business Forum but also for broader economic engagement between our two countries. It gives me great pleasure to join the business representatives from South Africa and India here today. The economic and commercial exchanges between our two countries are at the core of our bilateral ties.
Growth rate of over forty-three percent in our bilateral trade registered in the year 2010-11 is impressive by any standard but especially so in today's global economic scenario. I am extremely happy to note that the trade target of Ten billion US Dollars by 2012 agreed during the State Visit of President Zuma to India in June 2010, was achieved last year with bilateral trade having crossed the figure of Eleven billion US Dollars. I am told that the next goal is to achieve bilateral trade of Fifteen billion US Dollars by year 2014. I am confident that this target would also be achieved as we build on the momentum of our bilateral ties. South Africa is one of our most important trading partners and in the future too, I believe, our two countries will have deep economic engagement.
I am happy that Indian companies work closely to achieve the priorities of the South African government, and are also seeking to add value to raw materials, with a view to increasing beneficiation locally. Indian companies have not only built partnerships with their South African counterparts, but also view it as a gateway to the Southern African region.
Indian companies are also significant investors in the services sector. India itself has become a predominantly service economy with over fifty-five percent of our GDP attributable to services. This has naturally meant that the trade in services has become an important component of our international engagement. IT Technology, training, capacity building, Business Process Outsourcing, banking and finance, and transfer of technology are important areas of our exchanges. Our confidence in the South African economy is reflected in the fact that several major Indian banks are present in South Africa, and I am told that their representation is planned to grow in the future. We are also happy that many important firms from South Africa have established their presence in India. We want many more of your companies to look at business opportunities in India.
The Joint CEO's Forum set up during President Zuma's State Visit to India in 2010, provides an institutional mechanism for our economic and commercial interaction.
I would also like to compliment the Business Unity South Africa for proactively bringing the business communities of our two countries together. I have been told that on average at least one South African business delegation visits India every month. I hope that this frequency only grows in the future, and gives a further fillip to our trade and industry co-operation.
India seeks economic development that has an inclusive character so that it benefits all our citizens. The fulfillment of our goals would depend to a great extent on the ability to tackle the constraints in our physical infrastructure. Power, roads, airports and ports, are all India's overarching priorities - and investments of close to one trillion US Dollars would be required in the next five years. Like us, South Africa too, is focused on boosting its infrastructure development. This provides an excellent investment opportunity for Indian and South African companies to look at each other's strengths in infrastructure, housing, engineering, skill building and other key areas, and find complementarities for forging mutually beneficial collaborations. As we build infrastructure in our respective countries, we can look at each other as partners. In the field of energy security too - another important objective for both countries - renewable energy and gasification of coal are areas in which we can work together. I urge the business community to explore these possibilities and concretize projects.
A critical and an absolutely necessary input for the sustainable growth of a nation's economy and all its sectors is technology, which in turn, depends on research and development. India has a rich human capital and a strong knowledge base. We have been successful in many frontier areas - space, nuclear energy, Information Technology, nano-technology and bio-technology, among others. The Indian Space Research Organisation is working with the South African National Space Agency to support joint initiatives, so that as developing countries we are not left out in our efforts to explore new areas. I feel that it would be useful to share our knowledge and experience, to translate the cutting-edge knowledge of science into products for the market. This will yield benefits both in terms of new employment and new products for consumers. Technical education linkages would get a fillip and new momentum, if on both sides, businesses were to assess the value of such research and collaboration and promote them.
India and South Africa are strategic partners. South Africa has become a member of BRICS, adding greater weight to this grouping. We were honoured that President Zuma travelled to Delhi in March 2012 for the BRICS Summit in New Delhi. The Summit had discussed the establishment of a development bank which would cater for needs of developing countries. We look forward to working with South Africa to take the process forward, as many developing countries are looking to us to provide leadership in the 21st Century.
India and the Southern Africa Customs Union are negotiating a broad based Preferential Trade and Investment Agreement which will, in our view, serve the mutual interest of both sides. I hope that South Africa would facilitate the early completion of the internal discussion process. I visualize great opportunities for expansion of trade in goods and services and two-way investment through this Agreement.
We are keen to working with South Africa bilaterally, and also through the IBSA, BRICS, G-20 and other international fora, to deal with the impact of economic fluctuations in the Western countries on our economy, and ensure that international financial institutions reflect the emerging economic realities.
In conclusion, I would like to share with you that my interactions with President Zuma and the leadership of South Africa, have left me in no doubt that the India-South Africa relationship is based on solid foundations and has a bright future. There is tremendous potential to expand the India-South Africa bilateral partnership. I urge you to fully utilize the opportunity of meeting today, to impart further momentum to business relations between our two countries. You can be sure of a helping hand from the two Governments, as they are committed to taking bilateral economic ties to ever greater heights.