INDIA’S Prime Minister Narendra Modi met South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma today to discuss boosting investment and trade, in a continent where India is playing catch-up to China.
Modi in October hosted the leaders of 54 African nations, including Zuma, in the biggest India-Africa summit, promising $10 billion in credit to back a “partnership of prosperity”.
Modi, who arrived from Mozambique, is also due to visit Kenya and Tanzania.
“Indian companies hold strong business interests in South Africa. About one-fourth of our investment in Africa are in this country and there is potential to expand our business ties,” Modi told a media conference before a business summit between the two countries in the capital Pretoria.
Following talks with Zuma, the Indian leader said: “Two-way trade has grown by over 300 percent in last 10 years.
“Industry-to-industry ties can not only bring rich economic gains to our societies - they can give a new shape to our partnership, and drive it to new levels.”
The two leaders signed agreements on information technology and tourism, and vowed to work on further deals in mining, pharmaceuticals and defence.
India is South Africa’s sixth-largest trading partner, with two-way trade reaching $5.3 billion in 2015-16.
China’s annual trade with the continent is three times larger than India’s $72 billion.
South African trade statistics show that India’s exports to South Africa increased by 86 per cent to 54 billion rand ($4 billion) in 2015 from 2011, while exports to India jumped 70 per cent to 41 billion rand in the same period.
Among the countries’ cultural and historic links is the 21 years that Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi spent living in South Africa as a lawyer and activist.
“We stood together in our common fight against racial subjugation and colonialism,” Modi said.
“It was in South Africa that Gandhi found his true calling.”
South Africa also has 1.3 million people of Indian origin, the largest diaspora population in Africa - a major focus of Modi’s diplomatic push across the world since taking office two years ago.
Modi was due to attend a thousands-strong diaspora event at a stadium in Johannesburg on Friday evening, having hosted similar rallies in cities from New York to London.
He will travel to the coastal city of Durban on Saturday, heart of the Indian community, and visit key sites from Gandhi’s life.
Modi thanked Zuma for supporting India’s aspiration to join a club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology. “We know we can count on the active support of our friends like South Africa,” Modi said.
The 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items used to make them. It was set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974.
Opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, an ally of China’s, which has responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own.
After their talks, President Zuma highlighted South Africa’s wish for reform at the UN - a stance closely in line with India’s long-running campaign to be made a permanent Security Council member.
India and Africa are together home to a third of the world’s population, but neither India nor any African country has a permanent seat on the five-member council.
“South Africa and India enjoy strong relations dating back to the struggle against apartheid,” Zuma said. “India was a vociferous campaigner against apartheid colonialism.”