Johannesburg: The chemistry between South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be used to benefit both countries as they work towards recovering their economies post Covid-19, according to South African High Commissioner to India Sibusiso Ndebele.
The diplomat was participating in a webinar organised on Tuesday by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Exim Bank that linked up Indian and African business leaders and diplomats, who shared ideas for recovering the economies in both countries that have been severely impacted by Covid-19.
The webinar, titled "Africa Economic Update - Covid & Beyond: Focus Southern Africa", was part of a series that will cover the different regions of the continent.
"As far as our bilateral trade with India is concerned, the institution of a fairly restrictive lockdown on both sides has had an equally negative impact at a time when our countries are determined to increase trade links between them," Ndebele said.
"As an immediate impact, there will be congestion at the ports in shipments while the supply chain in different countries returns to normal, depending on the different stages of the virus in their respective countries.
"The warm and cordial relationship between our two countries needs to fully deliver on its economic potential," Ndebele said, adding that visits by the heads of state to each other's countries have resulted in a unique "chemistry" between Ramaphosa and Modi.
"As both countries move out of their respective lockdowns and new opportunities are explored, we will need to work together to ensure that we fully support the private sector to realise these opportunities and ensure that our bilateral trade and investment relations hit new heights," the diplomat said.
The participants in the webinar shared a number of suggestions, which Mukul Sarkar, Chief General Manager at Exim Bank, said would be pursued further between CII members and the bank.
Rajesh Ranjan, High Commissioner to Botswana, believed that opportunities existed for pension funds in the country to be invested in India.
In Namibia, which borders both Botswana and South Africa, consideration is being given to establishing an alternative port to those currently used in South Africa to ship good to countries in the region, according to High Commissioner Prasant Agrawal.
Sandra Uwera, CEO of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Business Council, called on Indian companies to develop e-commerce in the region and also to set up export processing zones jointly.
Rajiv Jaiswal, Regional Manager for Southern & East Africa at Tata Motors, South Africa, felt that the Make in India Ambulance project, which had seen success in Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Malawi, could be extended to the rest of Africa.
Srikar Reddy, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, said southern Africa had emerged as an important trade partner of India.
"In order to mitigate the adverse effect of Covid-19 on India-South Africa trade, new ways and means are being considered to continue and expand that trade," Reddy said as he called on mission heads to play a key role in diversifying export opportunities to southern Africa.