Leaders have thrown their weight behind the need for development of the African continent as expressed at the first Brics business council meeting.
Leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, on Tuesday threw their weight behind the need for urgent development of the African continent as expressed at the inaugural meeting of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) business council, which took place in Sandton.
"Africa is rising and full of hope and promise … it is becoming a remarkable success story," said Zuma in addressing the conference. "In Africa's success lies our success, failure is not an option," said Onkar Kanwar, chairperson of the India Brics business council.
The Brics forum was formed in 2011 with the aim of encouraging commercial, political and cultural cooperation amongst its member countries. The Brics leaders resolved to prioritise Africa's development at the summit held in Durban in March and at the same time formed the Brics business council.
At the council meeting each country's chairperson addressed the audience. Zuma said the time had come to "take forward the continent's development agenda".
Zuma said trade amongst the group in 2012 amounted to $16.1-billion, almost 17% of total global trade. And South Africa's trade with Brics nations alone grew by 11% in 2012, reaching R294-billion.
But bringing African development into the Brics agenda was a new priority.
The continent's output is expected to expand by 50% by 2015 while consumer spending power would grow by 30%, Zuma said. "The rate of return is higher than any other region in the world."
Africa's agricultural potential
The continent's advantages include mineral wealth, estimated to be worth $2.5-trillion, and agricultural potential, the president said.
Zuma added that the Development Bank of Southern Africa was intensifying investment into the region; focusing particularly on electricity and roads. The Industrial Development Corporation already funded projects worth R6.2-billion on the continent in 2012, while Eskom is considering options for its involvement in regional generation and transmission projects.
A planned free-trade area will also assist in bringing Eastern and Southern African countries together, while infrastructure like a north/south corridor, with an aim to stretch from Cape to Cairo, will stimulate intra-African trade.
Patrice Motsepe, chairperson of the South Africa Brics business council, said infrastructure projects on the continent require funding for which there is currently a shortfall although two of nine priority projects are already fully-funded.
"[This] private sector investment is a good indication we are moving in the right direction," Motsepe said. "When Africa is doing well, we are doing well," Motsepe said, echoing the sentiments of the other Brics business council chairpeople. He noted there is a huge sense of urgency to develop the continent.
As far as the Brics initiatives are concerned, Zuma said the Brics development bank would be further discussed on the margins of the G20 summit in Russia next month, where leaders will consider reports submitted by each country's finance ministry.