PRETORIA -- Presenting India as the one of the most open economies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited South African businesses to participate in its transformation march and tap the huge opportunities by enhancing investment and diversifying the basket of trade.
Addressing top business leaders of India and South Africa, he invoked the "greatest leaders" Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi to underline the historical ties and asked the companies to take advantage of the geographical links as well.
Modi said South African business excellence and Indian capacities must leverage each other for growth and development in our two countries.
Out to hardsell India, he described the country as "a bright star in the global economy" as he referred to its high growth rate of 7.6 per cent and spoke about efforts to improve 'ease of doing business' in an environment-friendly manner.
"Our leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi brought political freedom for us. Now, it is the time to work for economic freedom. Thus, our relations rest upon our common desire to fulfil the aspirations of our people," Modi told the business meet attended by South African President Jacob Zuma as well as about 500 top captains of business and industry.
"We have been friends in adversities. Now we should franchise in opportunities," he added.
Talking about the opportunities, Modi said, "India today is among the most open economies. We have liberalised our FDI regime in most of the areas and in all possible ways. We have rationalised our norms and made it simple for businesses to establish and grow."
Leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi brought political freedom for us.
Emphasising that the "scope is tremendous", he said, "The potential is increasing day by day. This is because both countries are strengthening their economic fundamentals. Therefore, we must look at ways to diversify our trade basket, to complement our needs and to serve the people.
Amid India's keenness to make inroads in resource-rich Africa where China has already taken a big lead, Modi apparently drew a contrast between the two models of business, saying "We have always believed in nurturing and nourishing not in exploiting."
In this context, he invoked Mahatma Gandhi, saying his philosophy was to see everybody satisfied.
The Prime Minister said his advise to Indian companies doing commerce in Africa was that "the spirit of African humanism, UBUNTU, should reflect" in their business ethos.
"For Indian companies, South Africa is a home in this continent. Many leading Indian companies have a foot-print here. They are engaged in a wide range of activities. Many Indian CEOs are here with us. My advice to them is to see that their business results into socio--economic transformation of this great country," he said.
"I have been advocating three 'P's for India -- Public Sector, Private Sector and People's Partnership. I have been emphasising on the Personal Sector. The same applies here. Skill development and community empowerment should be central to your business plans," he said.
Modi said it was encouraging to see that the business engagement between India and South Africa was not one way.
"South African companies are also active in India. Many of them have presence on ground. We have learnt from your knowledge and benefited from your innovative products," he said.
Talking about the steps taken by his government over the last two years to attract more foreign investment, like easing of norms and regulations, Modi said "all this is having a good impact on expansion of job market and rise in purchasing power of the people. This finally leads to India becoming a place with better quality of life and higher living standards."
He said his government has ensured that "our growth is inclusive and embraces both rural and urban communities. We are taking a leap towards next generation infrastructure in both core areas and social sectors.
Emphasising the "unique" complementarities, Modi said
socio-economic challenges of both India and South Africa are more or less same. "My advice is that the wheels of development should not be re-invented," he said.
The Prime Minister said both the countries have immense natural resources and there is a need to properly harness them and to use them sustainably for welfare of the common man.
"We can learn a lot from each other in this," he said.
"We particularly want to engage with your world class mining companies. Some of them are already active in India. But we want strategic engagements on this front. Our interest in this sector is not one sided," Modi told the South African business leaders.
Secondly, the challenge of climate change and the need of fast track development is before both the countries, he said.
For Indian companies, South Africa is a home in this continent.
"We are both committed to clean and green pathways to progress. At the same time, we need energy resources," he said.
"Our two countries have the unique benefit of opposite seasons. When it is summer or mango season in India, it is winter here, and vice versa. We can leverage this geographic advantage to market each other's fruits, vegetables and other perishables," he said.
Pointing out that India has huge domestic market which offers massive opportunities for South African food processing industry, Modi said, "Our collaboration in this sector will bring value for our farmers and our villages."
He said India is working on very ambitious plans of infrastructure, a "task which is pending from the days of Independence has to be completed fast now," an apparent dig at the previous governments.
"Together, we can do a lot to fill these gaps. India is best suited to help you in technology and skills. Efforts are already underway in these areas," the Prime Minister said.
He said India and South Africa can work together in a number of areas, from defence to dairy; from hardware to software; from medicines to medical tourism; from soft skills to science and technology. "There are opportunities for us."
He thanked the South African government for introducing 10-year BRICS visa for regular business travellers, saying the Indian industry is quite encouraged by the move.
"In February this year, we launched our e-Visa programme for South Africa. This is valid for short term tourist and business travellers. You can now get your visa for India sitting at home in your email, and that too free of cost," he added.
Earlier, the South African President Zuma said economic power in the world was still very much imbalanced between developed and developing countries.
"We have to take our destinies into our own hands," Zuma said.
"Our two countries hold tremendous economic opportunities which must be unleashed through the India-SA Forum.
"We need to explore ways and means of increasing and diversifying our trade initiatives in the different economies," he said.
Zuma said the two countries were major players in the global economy and in shaping the global economy through organisations such as IBSA and BRICS.
"We have set an ambitious target of increasing bilateral trade to the level of USD 18 billion by 2018," Zuma said, adding that a South-Africa-India Joint Trade Committee would be set up to supplement existing platforms.
Modi and Zuma also heard inputs from the South Africa- India CEOs Forum, which met earlier in the day.
Vivian Reddy, South African co-chair of the Forum, which has met for the first time in five years, said that the Forum would play a crucial role in improving trade between the two countries.
"South Africa provides the most viable base for exports into sub-Saharan Africa for India," Reddy said, adding that the Forum would be the midwife for Indian business on the African continent.
Adi Godrej, Indian co-chair of the Forum, said both Indian and South African members of the Forum had decided to ramp up business amid the renewed sense of optimism among Indian business because of the reforms in India in the past two years.
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