Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a group of senior Indian and South African businessmen on Monday that he was confident India can accelerate economic growth to the eight-to-ten per cent range.
"We have been able to register a economic growth rate of 8.0% for four years in a row. Most analysts now believe we can sustain this rate of growth into the medium term. Indeed, we aim to raise the growth rate to the 8-10% bracket in the near future," Singh told the third meeting of the India-South Africa CEOs' Forum in Pretoria.
The prime minister noted that South Africa is India's biggest trading partner in Africa, but that bilateral trade, which totalled $4 billion last year, was negligible in the context of global trade.
English was widely spoken in both countries, Singh said. "The presence of a large number of people of Indian origin in South Africa should also help cement our business relationship."
Singh said companies from around the world were investing in India. "They see India as a vibrant marketplace and a growing market. They all find India a productive and profitable business destination."
He invited South African businessmen to use India as a hub for their activities in Asia. "With the South Asian Free Trade Agreement in place and India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement under negotiation, the potential is unlimited. I would not like South African companies to miss the bus," he said.
The CEOs' Forum is co-chaired by Tata group Chairman Ratan Tata and Patrice Motsepe, chairman of South Africa's mining giant Rainbow Minerals. India's delegation included Tarun Das, Chief Mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industries, MD Saini, Director of Alcons, a unit of the Shapoorji Pallonji group; Vijay Mahajan, Chairman of Basix India Ltd; AK Puri, Chairman of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd; RK Belapurkar, Executive Director of BHE; Niranjan Limaye, ICICI Bank's chief Africa representative, Rajul Kirloskar, Director of Kirloskar Oil Engines; P Rajendran, CEO of NIIT; Ranjan Chakraborty, Head, Africa for Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd; T Tanti, CEO of Suzlon Ltd; Raman Dhawan, Managing Director of Tata Africa Holdings, Ravi Kant, Managing Director of Tata Motors Ltd; and Syamal Gupta of Tata International.
Although 2005 bilateral trade soared more than 70 per cent from 2004, India accounts for only 1.4 per cent of South Africa's total exports.
Tata Sons is looking at an immediate investment of 1.9 billion rand, from the six billion rand it plans to invest in the telecoms sector over the next five years. Tata has a 26 per cent stake in Neotel, which is a company providing enterprise information technology, security and biometric identification products and services to organisations, government and healthcare agencies.
"We have been here for about five years," Kirloskar told the Hindustan Times. "This year we will be exporting about $5 million worth." The exports included oil engines, pumps and compressors.
Rajendran of NIIT said his company, which currently has one centre in Durban, plans to expand its presence in South Africa. "This is directly to do with South Africa's desire to improve its skill-set development," he said.
Tata Motors and Mahindras already have a good presence in South Africa.
Suzlon's Tanti said Hansen Transmission, the world's second-largest manufacturer of wind-turbine gearboxes, which Suzlon acquired in May this year, already had a presence in South Afria. Tanti said Africa is sitting on potential wind-generated power totalling about 400,000 megawatts. "We are looking for opportunities in this sector," he said.
Shipra Tripathi, Director for Africa at CII, quoted Tarun Das as saying: "CII will initiate skills development in South Africa in collaboration with the Indian government."