South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa heads to Delhi as the chief guest for the India’s Republic Day.
The time will be spent in efforts to improve existing ties between the two countries including social and defense sectors.
Moving beyond the shade of the Jacob Zuma era
It is understood that President Ramaphosa is working towards improving relations with India and move past the era of the erstwhile President Jacob Zuma, who resigned from his post in February last year after a nine-year reign tainted by corruption scandals including those involving the Indian-born Gupta brothers, said people aware of the matter.
Ramaphosa, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has listed skill development, health services and digitization of governance and services as his priorities.
The upcoming visit on January 25-26 will enable Ramaphosa to seek alignment in policies in areas of common priorities.
Arms deals on the agenda
South Africa has Africa’s most thriving defense industry and the two sides are keen to explore partnership in joint production.
South African defence firm Denel, which had been blacklisted prior to September 2018, will explore joint ventures with Indian firms under the Make in India programme.
The ban was lifted following a May 2018 judgement of the Supreme Court, which dropped all corruption charges against the defence company. It came after a personal request from Ramaphosa to Modi during a July meeting in Johannesburg on the sidelines of 2018 BRICS Summit.
Denel was blacklisted in 2005 by the then UPA government over allegations that the company paid kickbacks to secure a deal for the Indian Army’s global tender to purchase of 1,000 NTW-20 anti-materiel rifles along with 398,000 rounds of ammunition.
Ramaphosa to turn on the charm to Indian business community
During his stay, Ramaphosa will also seek to engage the Indian business community and invite it to take advantage of South Africa’s pre-eminent position in conducting trade with several other African countries.
South Africa is the biggest African economy and there is substantial potential for trade growth between the two countries, according to experts.
South Africa has a 1.5 million strong Indian-origin community, which accounts for about 3% of the country’s population.
Ramaphosa’s visit comes at a time when, saddled with Chinese loans, many countries from western, eastern and southern Africa are looking at India owing to its goodwill and non-interfering approach to untangle themselves from the debt trap.
Africa has been a foreign policy priority for the Modi government and there have been several high-level engagements with countries in the continent since May 2014.