South Africa set out its stall at the Davos meeting of the global elite on Wednesday, proud to be attending for the first time as a member of the Bric stable of new economic powers.
China invited South Africa to join the group — which also includes the major emerging giants Brazil, Russia and India — at the end of last year, despite the African powerhouse’s relatively small economy.
Speaking at the annual meeting, which brings 2 500 business and political leaders from around the world to this snowy Swiss resort, South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the honour was justified.
“We have just joined Bric, which is now the Brics, and I think that’s an important statement in its own right. South Africa occupies a pivotal position as an emerging market,” Davies said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev noted the change in his opening address to Davos, welcoming South Africa to the “Brics” and saying the group should have greater involvement in global economic decision-making.
With 49-million people and an economy worth $527-billion, South Africa is dwarfed by even Brazil’s $2-trillion economy, never mind China’s, but Davies denied it had been invited in as a token African country.
Instead, he said, its close connections with the continent allow it to punch above its weight, by linking it to hundreds of millions of consumers.
“The African continent is the next great economic story,” he said. “We are a small economy on our own, we have a population size that is very much smaller than any of the other Bric countries. Our rates of growth are not yet at their level but we are recovering,” he said.
“We are quite small but when we look at the African continent as a whole, the numbers start to add up,” he said, promising greater regional integration.”
South Africa attended last year’s Davos as the proud host of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and Davies said the success of the tournament had demonstrated the strength of its institutions and infrastructure.
Bric was a term coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 to describe the growing influence of the four largest emerging economies, which accounted for about half of global economic growth between 2000 and 2008.
Since then the group’s members have started meeting among themselves to push common economic positions in global meetings. — Sapa-AFP