VIF Hosts the High Commissioner of South Africa and Ambassador of Sudan under its Connect Africa Programme
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The High Commissioner of South Africa, His Excellency Mr. JS Ndebele, and the Ambassador of Sudan, His Excellency Mr Abdalla Omer Bashir Elhusain, gave presentations on the status of India's relations with their respective nations and their prospects as part of VIF's "Connect Africa" programme on February 20, 2023.

In his speech, H.E. Mr. JS Ndebele, Republic of South Africa, referred to 2023 as a unique year because it marks the 30th anniversary of formalising diplomatic relations between two nations. This year is also exceptional because South Africa will host the BRICS Summit, while India will host the G-20 Summit. He suggested that India's relationship with Africa, particularly the Swahili Coast, predates the continent's exploration by Europeans, most likely because of its geographic proximity and the Indian Ocean's ease of navigation. He mentioned that an ancient Greek author who wrote the "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea" or Guidebook of the Red Sea in 60 A.D. recorded the existence of Indians in East Africa.

The Bandung Declaration of 1955, the Group of 77, and the Non-Aligned Movement are just a few of the international forums where India has advocated for the liberation of Africa (NAM). He said that when the U.S. and USSR's cold war rivalry was at its height, Africa served as a reinforcement factor, and India's NAM policy gave the world a third front. Later, India was also in the vanguard of efforts to isolate the South African Apartheid Government.

South Africa and India have had a strategic partnership since November 22, 1993, and their warm and friendly relationships span many fields. The partnership is based on strong demographic complementarities rooted in Mahatma Gandhi's legacy and former President Nelson Mandela's iconic status. The Red Fort Declaration of 1996, the New Delhi Declaration of 2003, and the Tshwane Declaration of 2006 outline significant areas of common purpose based on a shared agenda and reflect the broad level of bilateral engagement between South Africa and India. The aforementioned documents strongly emphasise values like democracy, human rights, sustainable development, and challenging the existing global system, power structures, and financial system.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is currently India's second-largest trading partner. The total trade value between the two nations is $11.5 billion, with South Africa exporting about 4.7 billion dollars to India and importing 6.8 billion dollars from India. He stated that since 1994, India has invested roughly US$8 billion in South Africa through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), compared to US$2 billion invested by South Africa in India. The most recent estimates indicate that over 130 Indian businesses operate in South Africa and employ about 18 000 South Africans.

He thanked the Indian government for the IITs and IIMs, which provide a platform for extending South Africa's technological, managerial, and educational strengths. Similarly, South Africa has contributed significantly to India's start-up boom by providing much-needed investment. He pointed out areas for potential future collaboration, including agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and health care, mining equipment, defence procurement, retail, financing and insurance, and infrastructure development.

Information on drug trafficking, counterterrorism, illicit financial flows, and fugitives is shared as part of security cooperation. Discussions have been held between the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to address their shared concern about drug trafficking and to improve cooperation.

He specifically thanked the South African population of Indian descent, who have deep roots in South African society and have made substantial contributions to the growth and enrichment of South African society to emphasise people-to-people relationships. He concluded by expressing his optimism and happiness that the South African President will travel to India to attend the G20 Summit and that the Indian Prime Minister will visit South Africa this year during the BRICS Summit.

H.E. Mr Abdalla Omer Bashir Elhusain, Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan, evoked that the Sudan-India relationship is deeply rooted. He emphasised that it dates back to the Nilotic and Indus Valley Civilizations, roughly 5000 years ago. Indian traders and tourists had access to well-travelled Nile and Red Sea routes. Trade between the ancient Nubian Kingdoms of Sudan and India had begun to expand via the Red Sea around the 12th century. He mentioned how Mahatma Gandhi's teachings motivated the Sudanese nation's struggle for freedom and eventual independence in 1956. Since Sudan's independence in 1956, diplomatic representation between the two nations has been exchanged and it is steadily improving.

He joyfully expressed the strong ties of shared heritage and remarkable similarities that bind Sudan and India together. Both of these nations have a diverse populations and economic prosperity. The two nations have always had friendly and cordial relations. A good illustration of this type of interaction between the two countries peoples is the Indian community in Sudan and many Sudanese of Indian descent.

He mentioned that Sudan is known as one of the world's food baskets and has a wealth of natural resources regarding economic opportunities. The largest fossil aquifer in the world, covering more than 2 million km3 of groundwater, is located beneath Sudan, which makes up 43% of the Nile basin. Additionally, 10% of the world's arable land is in Sudan, and the country has a fertile rain-fed belt in the south. It also has a tropical climate suitable for farming all year round. There are enormous opportunities for establishing meat-processing, tanning, and leather-related industries because it has the second-largest livestock herd in Africa (more than 100 million heads).

Along with mining and the oil and gas industries, he said that Sudan's agriculture and animal production sector is one of the country's three main core competencies. Banking, telecommunications, transportation, and physical infrastructure are a few additional features of the services sector that still require significant investment to support the expansion and development of other economic sectors. He emphasised that Indian investors may pay particular attention to the pharmaceutical and solar energy industries.

When seeking a high education, Sudanese students frequently choose India. There are approximately 15,000 Sudanese students who came to India between 2016 and 2021. They rank fourth among all international students who simultaneously arrived in India, behind those from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Malaysia.

His Excellency made reference to medical tourism when he said that the majority of Sudanese nationals travelling for medical care are headed to India. It is estimated that 10,000 Sudanese nationals travel to India annually for medical care. He regretted that despite the excellent medical care the Sudanese citizens received at Indian medical facilities, they continue to experience problems because of the middlemen who typically arrange their acceptance for medical treatment in India.

He advocated for the development of close ties between civil society organisations in the two nations as a way to enhance bilateral relations. He also suggested that more scholarships should be given to Sudanese students who want to study at Indian universities. India can assist Sudan in restoring its existing agricultural research facilities and vocational schools. In regard to the admission of Sudanese students and patients into Indian universities and hospitals, he asked for additional measures to control the agents. Concerning issues with overstaying, he also expressed his concerns about the ease of immigration regulations. Finally, he anticipated India's cooperation in developing its pharmaceutical and solar energy industries.

The event ended with open discussion where the High Commissioner of South Africa and Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan eagerly interacted with people attending the Programme. They thanked VIF for hosting the event and expressed their interest to participate in such similar programmes in the future.

Event Date 
February 20, 2023

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