African countries are increasingly looking to use technologies developed by India rather than those developed by the West, the latter being deemed less appropriate for the continent, according to delegates at a just-concluded conclave here.
“Technologies, including new technologies in the services sector, are set to drive growth and economic development in the southern African Development region. India can offer opportunities not only in transforming technologies but also share technical knowledge,” said Ashok Babu, Consul General for India in Cape Town.
Babu, who moderated the panel discussion on this theme at the CII-Exim Bank Regional Conclave on India-Southern Africa Growth Partnership Africa held here earlier this week, said sharing technical expertise has been an important component of India’s development cooperation to empower people in African countries through a number of capacity-building programmes such as the ITEC scholarships, ICCR scholarships and other training programmes under the India-Africa Forum Summits.
Abhishek Jain, Assistant Director at KPMG, said about 20 years ago India had been in a similar situation to where Africa is now regarding developing technological capacity, but India has become a global leader in this area now after investing in technology and education. “Southern Africa could very well become the powerhouse in the next few years,” Jain said.
He cited areas where Indian experience in this regard could prove valuable including vaccine production, education, e-medicine and renewable power, which he said could be a game changer for the continent because it was blessed with so many renewable energy resources such as solar power.
He said that one of the areas that little is known about too many people is the Square Kilometre Array telescope involving a number of countries, including South Africa.
“This (includes) a collaboration between Indian and South African scientists who are developing the world’s biggest telescope, which holds an opportunity for space exploration for India and South Africa,” he said.
Jain said India’s space development programme has translated into benefits at the grassroots level for its population, which could also be done for southern Africa.
Jignesh Dipakkumar Dave, Chief Executive Office of Next360 Group, said using digital technology tools helps to build capacity.
“If you have the technology and you have the capacity, you can have access to capital. We see this as something that is gaining momentum as the world recovers from the Covid pandemic,” Dave said.
K Balachandran, Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer of Iris Business Services Limited, said a structured digital ecosystem enables development by bringing technology closer to the population of a country.
“India’s digital systems have made substantial progress in the last ten years or so and it is now in a position where it can propel the country in a big way to help other countries as well,” Balachandran said, adding that he hoped that sharing the Indian experience through collaboration would benefit the southern African countries as well.
Dennis Laxton, Senior Faculty Member at Regenesys Business School South Africa, shared this view.
“If we don’t collaborate, we are not going to share knowledge. It’s about what each party can bring to the table.
“India has pumped a lot of money into technology and we in South Africa need to grow. If we don’t embrace technology through this learning, how are we going to move forwards?” Laxton queried. “If we can share and if we can collaborate, we can empower people, through technology transfer,” Laxton said.
Nokuthula Ndlovu, Director, Projectised Management at the Black Business Council of South Africa, said that Indian businesses needed to be aware that some local talent might feel threatened by companies from India, even as she suggested a solution to this.
“There is a way around intentional skills transfer that is product-led and where we can work with local IT companies and form formidable partnerships, Ndlovu said.
“We need to build products and services within technology that will focus on the end user and the customer, as well as the reputation of these entities in a non-threatening way from employment and skills that are required,” Ndlovu proposed.