South African Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor and Indian High Commissioner Ruchira Kamboj officially launched the Gandhi-Mandela Centre of Specialisation for Artisan Skills in Pretoria on Monday.
The centre is being set up by the government of India at the Tshwane South Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in Pretoria and is expected to start operations next year, Pandor said.
"This is an extremely exciting birthday gift for these two great leaders," Pandor said as she commented on the project which jointly marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth.
She said the centre would lift South Africa's capacity to deliver quality skills. "The link between centres of specialisation (in India and South Africa) provides an assurance that it will be sustainable in the long term," Pandor added. Kamboj said it would bring a new dimension to the efforts by many of the 150 Indian companies represented in South Africa, who have been sending locals to India for training and then absorbing the skilled artisans into their own companies or into the broader South African workplace.
The plans for the initiative were finalised two months after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 10th Brics Summit here in July.
"The centre is the practical manifestation, as envisioned by the leaders of both countries, to promote quality vocational education and training to meet the requirements of young people as well as the artisan skills requirements of South Africa, Kamboj said.
The project is being overseen by India's HMTL. "Our track record in Africa is well-known and we now want to assist in helping transform South Africa into a developed state as well," Muralidhara Rao, Assistant General Manager Projects at HMTL, said as he outlined the objectives of the venture to train both unskilled and semi-skilled youth as electricians, boilermakers, mechanical fitters and millwrights.
Once completed, the project will be taken over entirely by the South Africa government. In the initial phase, India will bear the cost of project planning, supply and installation of the required machinery and equipment, training of South African personnel in India and on-the-job training of facilitators by Indian experts in South Africa.
In response to a call to businesses by Pandor and Kamboj to support the venture by taking in candidates who qualify in the courses, Mahindra South Africa CEO Rajesh Gupta said his company has always emphasised on the development of local skills and the centre would assist greatly in this.
"This centre can help bring positive changes to the economy of South Africa," Gupta said.
The logo of the centre, bearing the images of Gandhi and Mandela, was also launched at the event.