A 230-member delegation is accompanying him

South African President Jacob Zuma's visit to India will focus on increasing bilateral trade to $12 billion by 2012.

“There is a huge potential for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME),” said Praveen Toshniwal, deputy chairperson, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), western region, at an interaction organised by the CII and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) in Mumbai on Wednesday. Mr. Zuma is expected to visit the city on Thursday and re-launch the India-South Africa CEO Forum.

The main focus of the interaction was on sectors such as energy and mining, financial services, infrastructure and transport, pharma and healthcare, entertainment and tourism. “We want India to look at us as not just an extraction industry, but a manufacturing centre of excellence,” said Iqbal Sharma, deputy director-general of South Africa's trade and industry department.

A 230-member business delegation accompanying the South African President highlighted the business opportunities in their country. There is a long history to trade links between the two countries.

“India's first public private partnership was with South Africa,” said Deepak Premnarayen, chairperson of the ICS Group. There had also been a steep rise in the bilateral trade. It was pegged at $2.5 billion in 2002 and had risen to $7.5 billion in 2008-09. It was expected to be well above $7.5 billion in 2009-10.

Education and training is another field of opportunity. At present, there were more than 2000 Indian maths teachers in South Africa. “We need to upgrade educational levels for business benefit,” said Michael Spicer, CEO of Business Leadership, South Africa.

Challenges

Many Indian businessmen said that they faced visa problems. They complained that the visa issuing system was painfully slow and led to loss of business opportunities. They suggested long-term visas for business purposes. South Africa's High Commissioner to India Rev. Harris Sithembile Majeke said that their government was working on visa restriction improvements, but it would take time. Some businessmen pointed out that even as South Africa wanted to promote investment in automotives and components, the import duties on these products were comparatively very high. “Tariff rates on cars and light trucks are as high as 36 per cent. Don't we need to renegotiate them?” asked a businessman.

Some businessmen said that the crime rate was high in the country, which made business propositions quite unsafe.

South African investors shared their experience about joint ventures with Indian companies. Sasol has entered into a JV with Tata for development of coal to liquid plant in Orissa. “We are in the early phase of development. This mega energy project will see an investment of around $10 billion and will be completed by 2018,” said Mark Schnell, Country President of Sasol India.

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