What the BRICS summit means for SA

With only two days left until the 10th BRICS summit takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, the government says it is all systems go, and it is ready to welcome various heads of states and their delegates on its shores.

“We are very privileged as South Africa to be hosting the 10th BRICS summit for the second time, many of you would remember that we hosted the BRICS summit in Durban, the Ethekwini summit in 2013 and this is an opportune time to host, as we are also celebrating Madiba’s centenary,” South African ambassador to BRICS Anil Sooklal told the media last Thursday at a BRICS roundtable.

Heads of states from Brazil, Russia, India and China and African states such as Zambia, Egypt and Rwanda are expected to attend the summit held between July 25 and 27.

This year’s summit is themed “BRICS in Africa, collaboration for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the 4th Industrial revolution ”.

Sooklal said the bloc was intentionally focusing on making BRICS inclusive by including other countries. Economists say the summit will be an opportunity for South Africa to establish its agenda in BRICS as well as how it can shape the blocs focus to include a more African approach.

Thabi Leoka, an economist at Argon Asset Management says the summit may present a chance for South Africa to lobby for other African states to join the group.

“It will enable those countries to be part of the New Development Bank (NDB) so that they can also have access to loans from the bank as members of the NDB, said Leoka.

She told the Mail & Guardian that more involvement of the African countries in BRICS would enable discussions around China’s involvement on the African continent, and the way it has conducted business with other African countries.

“China’s big balance sheet often crowds out other African investors from investing in other African countries,” said Leoka.

Visiting Professor at the University of Pretoria Garth Le Pere told the M&G that through the summit, South Africa could align its agenda and those of the continent through BRICS.

“South Africa has established some key priorities, the main one is how the partnership of BRICS can promote and enhance and advance the fourth industrial revolution with a focus on Africa, other important areas include the working group on peacekeeping, which is important for the continent to the extent to which BRICS countries can contribute to peacekeeping through the United Nations as well as the African Union,” said Le Pere.

He added that the bloc has built confidence and a level of maturation and therefore had a better sense of direction than when it began back in 2013.

Leaders will discuss topics ranging from trade to e-commerce, intellectual property, the future of jobs, the industrial revolution, multilateralism as well as small-medium enterprise development.

BRICS also intends on establishing working groups on peacekeeping, a BRICS gender and women forum, as well as advancing the BRICS partnership in the fourth industrial revolution amongst others.

In the past week, various meetings held by the BRICS forums have been taking place in some parts of the country: youth, unions and civil society. This week the BRICS business council are holding a summit to chart a way forward on business and trade with the five countries.

Sooklal also told the media that delegates and sherpas from BRICS countries arrived in South Africa and that preparations and consultations with the various countries were underway.

Gauteng as the host city is also ready to welcome guests to the economic engine of South Africa, which according to Alfred Tau — the deputy-director general the Gauteng department of economic development — will attract more investments and growth into the province to create jobs and grow industries.

“The major discussions of BRICS happen at a national level and Gauteng is not leading in those discussions but Gauteng is playing a significant role as the host … we see this province as an important destination for investment in this country”, Tau told the M&G in an interview.

Gauteng is the largest economy in South Africa and between 2001 to June this year Gauteng attracted R380-billion in foreign direct investment, noted Tau.

South Africa joined BRICS in 2011 and has since contributed $17.8-billion in investments in South Africa, Tau noted. The country’s total trade in 2017 increased to R461-billion from R425-billion.

South Africa has been serving as chair of BRICS since January this year.

Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene was appointed as chair of the board of governors of the BRICS New Development Bank in May.

READ MORE: Brics bank fails to live up to hype

The BRICS leaders are expected to adopt the Johannesburg declaration, a document outlining all the commitments made by BRICS countries during the summit.

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Thulebona Mhlanga
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