DURBAN: The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) has very encouraging and close relationship with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and other Indian trade bodies and has initiated various steps to further strengthen the ties.

"We have a very strong relationship with the CII and both have jointly organised a few programmes for the mutual benefit of trade and industry of South Africa and India in the recent past. The SACCI and other trade bodies of South Africa have the firm opinion that Indian business houses can play a major role in our country ", Babu Baijoo, president of the SACCI told the visiting presspersonss at Pietermaritzburg city near Durban recently. The press conference was held under the auspices of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB).

Explaining the activities launched by the SACCI and CII together Mr. Baijoo said, two prgrammes - a week long exhibition of chemical and its allied products by an Indian company at Durban and a buyer seller meet - were held in the recent past. The chemical expo was a big success.

A total of 41 different chambers of business are affiliated to the SACCI and 53 corporate houses are its direct members. There is a presence of strong Indian community in Durban, the second largest city in South Africa, and Pietermaritzburg cities and the surrounding areas, and it is largely business oriented. Some of the top IT companies of India have approached SACCI for establishing their units in South Africa. TATA is already here. Many of the 5,000 registered companies of the SACCI, have links with the Indian corporate houses.

Mr. Baijoo said PCB affiliated to the SACCI, has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chennai, for "establishing a relationship of mutual assistance and pave way for the visit of delegations from both the sides". Though PCB has not sent any delegation to Chennai so far, some of the industries affiliated to it have taken advantage of the MoU.

Mr. Baijoo, who is also a former president of the PCB, said that Durban and Pietermaritzburg have a very strong concentration of manufacturing sector, including automobile industry, cooking oil refineries, growing food sector pharmaceutical, textile and footwear sector. Tourism is also a major industry here. The construction of a new international airport at Durban, the works on which are nearing completion, will prove a further boon for trade and industry here, he added.

Replying to a question on the impact of the economic recession, Mr. Baijoo said that compared to other countries, South Africa felt the economic slowdown a little late. However we are on the path of recovery. "As we felt the impact slowly, our recovery is also moving at a slower pace. Things are now looking up and business houses are optimistic. "We are expecting an overall industrial growth of ten per cent by next year", he added.

The SACCI is also taking steps for forging unity between various industrial sectors in the country to implement the project of having a permanent industrial exhibition in South Africa on the lines of the one at Pragathi Maidan in New Delhi, Mr. Baijoo said.

Tinus Havinga, president of the PCB and Andrew Layman, its CEO, who were also present at the press meet said that industrial houses have lot of potentials in South Africa and in particular chemical and pharmaceutical industries could do very well. India can also concentrate in launching projects for the production of energy in South Africa, they added.

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