11 April 2011
South Africa will attend its first BRICS summit as a full member of the grouping of most influential developing nations when President Jacob Zuma sits down with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China at the third BRICS Leaders Meeting in Sanya, a resort in China’s southern island province of Hainan, on 14 April.
The previous two BRIC summits were held in Russia in 2009 and in Brazil in 2010. Chinese President Hu Jintao will host this week’s summit, where he will be joined by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma.
South Africa will also participate in the BRICS Business Forum and the BRICS Banking Cooperation Mechanism on the sidelines of the two-day summit.
Zuma will be accompanied by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
From BRIC to BRICS
BRIC, to be known as BRICS now that South Africa has become a member, is a powerful bloc of emerging economies which, according to the International Monetary Fund, will account for as much as 61% of global growth in three years’ time.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, briefing journalists in Pretoria last Tuesday, said South Africa would both benefit from and contribute to the grouping’s ambitious goal of “expanding inter-trade amongst BRICS countries to US$400-billion to $500-billion by the year 2015.”
South Africa brought into BRICS “not only South Africa but a larger African market of a billion people,” Nkoane-Mashabane said, noting that trade between BRIC and Africa had grown significantly over the last decade.
BRICS and Africa
BRICS was still in its formative stages, the minister said, with the vision of BRICS being one of the issues on the agenda of the leaders’ meeting – giving South Africa an opportunity to make “an invaluable contribution in envisioning the future of BRICS.”
“South Africa goes into BRICS remembering fully well that we are an integral part of this continent of Africa,” the minister said. “Wherever South Africa finds itself in a forum … where other African countries are not represented, we do not speak for South Africa alone but also for all other African countries.”
Brazil, Russia, India and China, she said, had the capacity to bring investments, expertise and functional technologies that could help Africa accelerate its infrastructure development, which in turn would “encourage inter-African trade and help accelerate regional economic integration in our region”.
Nkoane-Mashabane added that there was already “coordination of ideas” among the five BRICS members in other international forums, including the G20, the G8 Plus 5, and the UN Security Council, where all BRICS members are currently serving.
‘Great opportunity for SA’
Speaking at a breakfast briefing in Johannesburg last Monday, Kuseni Dlamini, CEO of Old Mutual SA and Emerging Markets, said South Africa’s BRICS membership was “a great opportunity for South African business to access markets in the BRIC countries, which comprise more than 40 percent of the world’s population.
“It will also enable us to learn how some businesses in those markets have managed to be leaders in their fields.”
Speaking at the same briefing, Jose Vicente Pimentel, Brazil’s ambassador to South Africa, said joining BRICS would give South Africa “enormous international exposure.”
Pimentel added that South Africa and Brazil’s relations would further be strengthened by South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, followed by Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 edition of the event.
Already, Pimentel said, the Brazilian business community and municipal delegations had been visiting the 2010 host cities to learn what from South Africa’s successful hosting of the first Fifa World Cup on African soil.
Brazil’s ambassador to China, Clodoaldo Hugueney, echoed Pimentel’s views last week, telling Chinese news agency Xinhua that South Africa’s participation was “a major addition to the original forum of BRIC countries” because it implied a new dimension of cooperation with current development and changes in Africa.
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