India, SA to intensify partnerships to address recession

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Johannesburg -The partnerships between South Africa and India must be used to address the current economic recession, says Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Speaking at the Doing Business with India Conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said the two countries need to fortify their bilateral partnership in rescuing the poor of both countries from the global economic meltdown.

"Our relationship with India comes a long way and when the chips are down, we need to swiftly strengthen our relationship to rescue our people from the current economic meltdown"

The minister said that while trade and investment in both countries had grown remarkably, this development was going unnoticeable because of the economic crisis.

"Therefore on behalf of government, I call on all businesses present here from both countries to form strong partnerships with both governments by increasing trade partnerships with the vision of improving both countries' economies," Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Business people from the two countries, academics and government officials are attending the three-day conference, which kicked off on Wednesday. They are to discuss possible strategies to strengthen business and trade partnerships between countries.

India and South Africa are two major emerging markets with strong, well-regulated banking sectors and no sub-prime hangover. Yet both countries have been hit hard by the international financial crisis.

Therefore, the conference will further discuss the impact of the global recession and the measures being taken by the two countries to minimise the fall out.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said Indian businesses in South Africa and local business in India have played a major role in job creation in both countries thus contributing significantly well in the fight against poverty.

High Commissioner of India to South Africa, Rajiv Bhatia, agreed that during such difficult financial times, there was a greater need of mutual international trade between South Africa and India.

"It is vital to speed and implement our bilateral agreements in order to increase connectivity and improve our trade and investment relationships.

"I want to assure you that, on behalf of Indian government, we will have these plans implemented through our great partnerships with South Africa and the through the India Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) agreement," he said.

In 2008, during the IBSA Summit in South Africa, the three countries committed to increase trade amongst themselves to R142 billion by 2010. They also agreed that there was a need for more cooperation to reform the international financial architecture to serve better to the developing countries' interests.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at the summit, focusing on core areas of women's movement like domestic violence, micro-finance and economic empowerment to be signed by the three countries.

Proposed by South Africa, the MoU focussed on inclusive macro-economic policy and research, gender budgeting, micro-finance, violence against women, cooperative societies in women and cooperation at multilateral forums.

The IBSA Women's Working Group was launched at the second IBSA summit in South Africa in October 2007 to facilitate joint efforts and collaboration in areas of women's development.

The initiative forms part of and builds on the emergence and consolidation of IBSA and collaboration at regional and global levels for promoting good governance while strengthening South-South cooperation.

A trilateral developmental initiative between the three countries aimed at promoting South-South cooperation and exchange, IBSA was launched in 2003.

Since its formation, major areas of cooperation among the three countries include infrastructure, mining, information technology, pharma and healthcare, transport, agri-business, skills development and energy sector.

Regarding science and technology, the three countries have six science agreements in place.

India has already established itself as a major player in the field of internet technology in Africa.

India's e-Network Project aims to provide instant connectivity between all 53 African countries via satellite and fibre-optic networks. It is expected that the project can further education and health projects.

According to an IBSA agreement, research and development projects include the use of open-source software in HIV management.

India is also a leader in the field of providing low-cost anti-retroviral medications.

India has staked its claim in the car market in South Africa with the introduction of Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra.