The first Africa Business Summit of NRI forum Gopio began with a call to diaspora Indians to help develop the economies of their own countries and India, using resources they have built over the decades.
The three-day summit in Durban organised by Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gopio), a non-profit global movement to fight human rights violation of overseas Indians, has brought together 200 delegates from across the globe.
The priorities of the organisation, which was established in New York in 1989, have since changed to efforts to pool resources, both financial and professional, for the benefit of the global diaspora and India.
Speaking at the inauguration, Gopio president Thomas Abraham said, "We had always wanted to have a convention in South Africa, in the land of Nelson Mandela and the land which converted Mohandas Gandhi into the Mahatma."
"South Africa carries the rich history of Indians in Africa, as to how our forefathers wielded soft power, not military power, and have achieved great success through industry and hard work," Abraham said.
He reaffirmed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement that Indians should look first to benefit the countries of their birth before supporting India, a view supported by South African speakers at the summit.
Vivian Reddy, joint CEO of the India-South Africa Forum together with Adi Godrej of India, said Indians in a number of countries in Africa had contributed greatly to the economic and social upliftment of local communities.
"Indians at all levels continue to set an example and play a role in uplifting the countries where they find themselves," Reddy said.
Fawzia Peer, deputy mayor of Durban, said Indians had played a huge role in the struggle against colonialism in the country which even predated the advent of the African National Congress more than a century ago.
"The Indians of Durban have contributed and still contribute greatly towards the growth of this city, province and country," Peer said as she also acknowledged the role of Mahatma Gandhi during his stay in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century.
"Gandhi's views on the upliftment of all people and castes, the equal treatment of women, and the building of bridges between peoples and religions, remains as relevant today as ever," Peer said.
Indian Consul-General Shashank Vikram said the Gopio Economic Conference was taking place at a fortuitous time as 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the Red Fort Agreement signed between South African President Nelson Mandela and Indian Prime Minister Deva Gowde, which formed the basis of the relationship between the two countries.