India, South Africa can aid Africa’s growth: Zuma

New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Africa can be developed as the next economic powerhouse with assistance by both South Africa and India, South African President Jacob Zuma said here Friday, even as he urged both countries to further ramp up economic ties.

‘India and South Africa could both make a significant contribution to the establishment of Africa as the next global growth centre,’ Zuma said in his address to a joint meeting with the three Indian business chambers.

He said there was a vast potential for economic development beyond the border of South Africa.

‘There are around 200 million people in the southern African region alone and 1 billion across Africa,’ said Zuma, adding: ‘It (Africa) has also sustained significant levels of average economic growth over the last few years – thanks in part to improved political conditions and sound economic policies.’

But, there was urgent need to improve infrastructure, transport links, energy networks, as well demand for capital investment, skills technology and knowledge.

‘For both India and South Africa, this presents a massive business opportunity,’ he asserted.

Zuma was on a three-day visit to India, which ended Friday.

Demonstrating that economics was the new buzzword in bilateral ties, he was accompanied by 200 businessmen – the largest ever business delegation accompanying a head of state vising India.

Zuma mentioned the re-launch of the South Africa-India CEOs Forum, which he said will work towards expanding bilateral relationship through closer business ties.

‘As governments, we are committed to removing the barriers to trade and investment,’ he said.

Zuma pointed out that negotiations on a preferential trade agreement with South African Customs Union should be expedited, ‘so that we may realise the great potential that exists by bringing these two markets closer to each other’.

‘Together, we have a tremendous capacity to advance our economic agenda within international forums, as we work to advance the interests of all developing countries,’ he added.

Zuma said there has been a ‘dramatic increase’ in the presence of Indian companies who have invested around $6 billion in South Africa.

‘Companies that are household names in India are now becoming commonplace in South Africa,’ he said, adding ‘Prominent South African companies are also making an appearance in the Indian market’.

South African Minister of Trade and Commerce Rob Davies said the target of $10 billion for annual bilateral trade was ‘certainly achievable’.

Referring to the bilateral trade ties, he said the trade flows have come a long way, increasing a hundred fold from $45 million in 1993 to $4.5 billion in 2008.

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