India-South Africa Trade Journey Over The Years

India-South Africa Trade Journey Over The Years

Indian and South African relation dates back decades, arguably to the fifteenth century. It is rumored that São Gabriel, the ship that brought Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama from Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to Calicut (Kozhikode) in India, was helmed by an Indian merchant. The migration of Indians to South Africa, however, would start a few centuries later during the peak of colonization. To develop South Africa, or rather, to bring South Africa up to European standards, the British shipped Indians as indentured laborers to South Africa. They then became a part of South Africa and participated in the freedom struggle. South African Indians have also held prominent positions in the African National Congress. Indians also fought shoulder to shoulder with the South African natives against the Apartheid. As of 2020, there are over 3 million Indians living in South Africa. The South African Indians hold prominent positions in the government, are revered businessmen and have contributed to all spheres of the South African growth story.


Beginning of Trade


India was one of the first countries to resume bilateral ties with South Africa after it repealed the apartheid legislation. The relation between the two countries have always been cordial, thanks largely to their shared views and values in democracy, tradition and most importantly non-aggression.


To further the economic and political ties between the two nations, a Joint Ministerial Commission was set up in 1995. India was also supportive of several initiatives by the new South African government to improve its political and economic relations in the region.


Partnerships and Associations


Today, India and South Africa are part of some of the most powerful groups in the world – BRICS, IORA and IBSA.


  • BRICS – An acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, BRICS is an association of the fastest growing economies in the world. South Africa appended the ‘S’ to BRIC when it joined this group in 2010. In 2014, the BRICS established the New Development Bank, aimed at galvanizing financial resources for developing countries. South Africa aims to achieve its commitment towards the reinforcement of African Agenda through strategic cooperation of the BRICS. (Interesting fact: The acronym BRIC was first coined by Jim O’Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, in 2001. South Africa was added to this group in 2010. It is expected that the BRICS would reign the world economy by the year 2050.)
  • IBSA – An acronym for India, Brazil, and South Africa, IBSA was established in the year 2003. The purpose for the IBSA Dialogue Forum was to bring together three of the fastest growing economies in the world, situated in three different continents and facing similar concerns. An IBSA fund was set up in 2004 for the alleviation of poverty. The IBSA collaboration is within the South-South Cooperation framework and exchanges knowledge and resources.
  • IORA – The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is made up of 22 nations bordering the Indian Ocean. This group was formed to promote cooperation and increase interaction in the domain of government, business and academia between the member states.


India – South Africa Trade Ahead


The bilateral relation between the two nations, which began in 1993, has consistently strengthened with the signing of several trade deals. Strategic Partnership was enforced with the signing of Red Fort Declaration (1997) and the Tshwane Declaration (2006). Trade between India and South Africa increased by 13% from previous year and reached $10.7 billion in 2017-18. During his recent visit to India, President of South Africa Cyril Ramphosa signed a Three-Year Strategic Programme of Cooperation (2019-2021) to further the relationship in economic, technological, educational and political spheres.


Indian imports from South Africa – Gold, Coal, Mineral ores and concentrates, platinum, phenols, and others.


South African imports from India – Machineries, organic chemicals, electronic & electrical equipment, cereals, plastics, and pharmaceutical products.


Through several strategic partnerships and memberships in BRICS, IBSA, G20 and WTO, India and South Africa will form a formidable force in world affairs for years to come.

Contact us