South Africa hosts India business summit

March 27th, 2009 - 4:48 am ICT by IANS  

KPMG By Fakir Hassan
Durban, March 27 (IANS) The first Durban-India business summit hosted here Thursday to encourage trade and investment between the two countries.

The summit, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre here, was hosted by Indian Consul-General Harsh Vardhan Shringla in partnership with the Durban Investment Promotion Agency, audit firm KPMG, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Trade and Investment KZN.

Shringla said the aim of the summit was to reach out to companies that were not yet involved in business in India but which had the potential to engage with the subcontinent.

“South Africa is India’s biggest investment destination in Africa. A bulk of the Indian investment, particularly in the manufacturing sector, is in KwaZulu-Natal,” Shringla said.

Indian High Commissioner Rajiv Bhatia justified the summit in the current deepening global economic crisis, as he noted that both the Indian and South African economies have been affected negatively by the crisis, “even though perhaps we have not experienced its intensity as much as those in the developed world”.

Noting that bilateral trade, which was valued at only $1.3 billion in 2000-01, had increased to $6.27 billion in 2007-08, a growth of 382 percent in seven years; Bhatia urged the delegates to focus on five key sectors - Manufacturing and Infrastructure, SMME & Skills Development, ICT & Services, Tourism & Entertainment and Maritime & Logistics.

“In fact, the basic thrust of this conference should be on studying in depth the investment climate, the factors that encourage the two-way flows and an identification of the existing constraints, which if removed, would see a much bigger progress in this area.”

Bhatia highlighted two issues which could assist in easing business links - faster visa processes and the possibility of increased air links.

The high commissioner said the two governments had recently reached agreement on liberalising the civil aviation regime, thereby encouraging their carriers to put in place more flights on the basis of a multi-designation system.

“The challenge now is for their carriers to move forward into the implementation phase without delay.”

Bhatia added that the South African authorities had shown their goodwill by liberalising their business visa regime, to a certain extent, thus encouraging Indian business people to visit South Africa more as their business needs grew in future.

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