It’s kickoff time as South Africa hosts the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, the 2010 FIFA World Cup…
The world’s most widely viewed sporting event – FIFA World Cup – will be hosted in South Africa between 11 June and 11 July 2010. In fact South Africa is the first African nation ever to host the FIFA World Cup and the Consul General of South Africa in Mumbai, shares her views on the mega event as well as the increase in trade and tourism exchanges between India and South Africa
You are in your fifth year as Consul General of the Republic of South Africa in Mumbai, India. What has been your overall experience till date and how has tourism and trade grown between the 2 nations during your tenure?
Over the last five years we have seen tremendous growth in both trade and tourism exchange between India and South Africa. Regarding trade and investment, the past year saw USD 7.5 billion in trade exchange. When I came to India in 2005, trade exchange was USD 2.5 billion. This is a significant improvement. South Africa has various cooperation agreements with India involving several sectors, including technology, telecommunications and small business (SMEs).
In tourism, we have seen a growth of 17% and this is especially significant as the highest growth in tourism to South Africa over the last few years has been from India. Approximately 62000 Indians visited South Africa last year. The initiatives taken by South Africa Tourism along with the support of the Consulate and the High Commission have ensured greater awareness of South Africa in India. That is a great success we can boast about.
How does it feel as a South African to be the first African nation to hold the largest sporting extravaganza this year?
Speaking as an African and also as a South African, it is the most wonderful feeling. When Sepp Blatter announced that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in South Africa, the entire African continent trembled. It is a very humbling feeling. For South Africa, we say Ke Nako (English: It is time) meaning this is the time to celebrate Africa’s humanity with the world.
What are the preparations that have gone into hosting the FIFA World Cup in South Africa as well as to handle additional visitors from India by your office?
Since the announcement that South Africa will be hosting the FIFA World Cup, we have looked towards India as our partner for investments and assistance in numerous areas such as investment in the IT sector for ticketing infrastructure. For example, Satyam is one of our partners with FIFA.
We have had a lot of preparation on the ground in South Africa. We have 10 stadiums which have been built for this tournament and even after 2010 these stadiums will continue to be great symbols for what South Africa stands for in terms of culture and sports.
During the months leading up to the FIFA World Cup, our office has been processing over 100 visa applications daily. The period between April and July is our peak period and we are expecting over 2000 more applications. Of course it is not as much as other countries because football is not as popular in India, but the numbers we are seeing are still significant and amazing.
What is the volume of visitors you expect for FIFA from India and across the world?
Estimated from the number of tickets sold globally, we are expecting approximately 450000 visitors. Sales from India have reached approximately 3000 tickets and we are expecting over 5000 tickets to be sold from India by the end of the tournament.
Starting with the T20 World Cup that South Africa hosted in 2007, followed by the Champions Trophy in 2009, the IPL was hosted last year, the Champions Trophy in 2009, the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and later this year South Africa will host the T20 Champions league. What is the secret behind South Africa being favourites to host major sporting events?
I feel the secret lies in the vibrancy of our culture and the friendliness of the people. Of course, the infrastructure is also a very important factor. In terms of venues, accommodation and transport, South Africa is always prepared to host international events. For example, when the 2009 IPL season had to be relocated, South Africa was ready with a response in two days.
Tourism to South Africa has grown over the years. What according to you are the key influences that have affected the growth in tourism from India to South Africa?
The South Africa Tourism Board in India has played a major part in promoting South Africa as a travel destination. They have won numerous awards and deservedly so. The tour operators as well do a marvellous job of marketing and promotion, from participating in travel events to building an online presence through social media. South Africa has been extensively promoted throughout India and this is driving visitor traffic and increased awareness. Of course, Bollywood and cricket have also played huge roles in creating awareness of South Africa.
Which according to you are the emerging destinations worth exploring for the repeat visitor to South Africa?
I think KwaZulu-Natal is one of the hidden treasures of South Africa – and not only because it is also my home, but also as other areas have been promoted more and not many might be aware but KwaZulu-Natal offers so much for every kind of traveller. The forthcoming launch of the international airport in Durban will also attract more direct visitors from India. There is so much that Durban has to offer. It is home to one of the largest shopping malls in the world, the best cuisine and the legendary Golden Mile, offering a plethora of entertainment, excitement, fun and uniqueness.
I have even encouraged Bollywood producers to consider the region around Durban for shoot locations. From the majestic Drakensberg mountain range to the crystal-clear waters of the coastline, the region offers so much. Historically as well, Durban shares a tremendous bond with India as it was where Mahatma Gandhi established himself as a leader and activist. Travelling along the Gandhi Route in South Africa is certainly worth exploring for the repeat visitor regardless of your interest in history. KwaZulu-Natal is also home to the Zulu kingdom and its royal family. This is a major part of South Africa’s culture and must be experienced. Overall, KwaZulu-Natal offers an all-in-one experience for travellers.
Which are the key areas in terms of trade exchanges that both South Africa and India can benefit?
There are many synergies and compatibilities between India and South Africa. Currently, the main thrust of our trade is minerals and raw materials. We are also slowly moving towards the service industry. Information Technology is a service where South Africa can benefit greatly from India. Services such as banking and infrastructure are where India can benefit greatly from South Africa. For example, the consortium led by GVK Group and comprising Airports Company South Africa and Bidvest have been instrumental in modernizing India’s busiest airport, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Mumbai.
What are the investment opportunities for Indian investors in South Africa and which are the key areas that South Africa can see a potential for investing in India?
For Indian investors in South Africa, the service sector would be a strong target. Regarding the minerals and resources we have in South Africa, we want them to first benefit the local communities and then the rest of the world. For this reason, we encourage investors to come to South Africa and build their shops and factories. This adds value at the source. We want to encourage partnerships and exchange of skills between our two countries.
We are encouraging partnerships with Indian investors and mine owners in South Africa in order to get optimum utility from the mines. Even in the field of arts and crafts, we have had much cross-exchange with Indians and South Africans depicting each other’s countries.
South Africa also has one of the oldest histories of agro-processing and wine-making. South African wine has a history dating back to 1659, and at one time was considered to be one of the greatest wines in the world. Production is concentrated around Cape Town, with major vineyard and production centres at Paarl, Stellenbosch and Worcester. Viticulture is a growing industry in India but the challenges we face have to do with entering the Indian market due to the high levies. The Indian and South African Governments are working closely together to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement and a free flow of products between India and South Africa.
Does cultural exchange play an important role in improving relations between the two states and which are the interesting cultural events that come to your mind and events that are likely to take place in the future?
I believe culture is our strongest bond. India and South Africa are both culture-rich countries and it is very important that we share each other’s culture. South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation. I have also seen the same vibrancy and colour in India. Through fusion of our cultures, we achieve greater understanding and appreciation of each other. We have many cultural events in India showcasing South African fashion, art, food and much more. This makes people want to visit South Africa and experience the real thing.
You are also the Dean of the Consular Corps in Mumbai. What are your responsibilities as the Dean and how do you manage to coordinate the various responsibilities?
There are many responsibilities, but I manage them through delegation. When I became Dean of the Consular Corps in Mumbai, I immediately set up a committee of State Consuls. As a team, we achieve much more of what we set out to do than we could have achieved individually. From making management decisions to conducting cultural activities, we all work together to make it happen. Being the Dean has not been an added burden because of this structure and coordination.
What do you think of the initiative, Namaste South Africa (www.namastesouthafrica.com – Your Indian connection to South Africa) and how will this further help grow tourism to South Africa?
We need more of such ventures and these ventures must be promoted extensively. South Africa offers more than most people realize. We just have to get the message out there in terms of accessibility, affordability and quality. Even in terms of skills exchange, such as health tourism and education, there are many opportunities to build strong ties between India and South Africa.
Which is your favourite Bollywood Movie thus far shot in South Africa or in general?
Bollywood movies are very popular in South Africa. The two movies which have showcased South Africa extensively are Race and Ghajini. Personally, I have been watching Bollywood movies even before I came to India. There is a large Indian community in South Africa and Bolywood movies are widely distributed.
Which are your favourite sports and according to you which are the top 3 teams who are the favourite to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup?
I love sports because it brings people together and there is so much cheering and vibrancy. I love cricket. When the South African team visits India, I try to watch every game. Football is equally popular, even more so in South Africa. The people come together from across the country and the atmosphere is thick with patriotism and hope.
The favourite teams from Africa include Algeria, which are the current African champions, Ivory Coast, which has many international players and also Cameroon. The other teams which are also strong contenders are South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. Outside of Africa, the favourite teams are Brazil and France. Of course, my personal vote goes to South Africa.
As India has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup, would you consider one of the IPL teams to win the T20 Champions league to be hosted in South Africa?
Chennai Super Kings are my favourite team in the IPL and of course the Mumbai Indians as well because I am a Mumbaikar.
Which are your favourite sports personalities from India as well as from South Africa?
From India, my favourite sport personality is undoubtedly Sachin Tendulkar – not just because of his extraordinary abilities and talents but also because of his spirit and love of the game. He make people want to love him, first as a person and then as an athlete.
From South Africa, my favourite personalities include Jonty Rhodes and Shaun Pollock, who are both from my region. Of course, more players are added to this list as the team evolves.
In football, it is difficult for me to name my favourite players from the current team because it is a new team. However, I have so many favourites from the old football teams.
What according to you will be the greatest positive for South Africa on hosting FIFA 2010?
The greatest positive for South Africa on hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be bringing the world to South Africa and showcasing our treasures to the world. For those who have not yet experienced South Africa, they will discover a place which offers the best of what they are looking for. I encourage those visiting South Africa for the FIFA World Cup to explore more of South Africa. I know they will not be disappointed.
Lastly your message to the readers:
I invite all readers to visit South Africa and experience South Africa with all their senses. There is a strong bond between India and South Africa and no matter what you have read or heard before, I know that perceptions will change for the better after visiting South Africa. We welcome you.