26 March 2013
Trade ministers from the five BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – pledged increased support for the African continent during the BRICS Business Forum in Durban on Tuesday.
Addressing nearly 1 000 businesspeople from the five countries at Durban’s International Convention Centre, Brazil’s Minister of Development Industry and Foreign Trade, Fernando Pimental, said it was important to strengthen commercial ties between BRICS members and to increase trade with African countries.
India’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles, Anand Sharma, said India had made a considered decision to share its information technology capabilities with Africa.
Through the Pan African e-Network Project, tele-education and tele-medicine technologies linked key universities and doctors in 47 Africa countries with those in India.
Through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (Itec) programme, India had also provided scholarships to tens of thousands of African students to help them study in India.
India would now help to set up 70 higher education institutions in African countries in areas such as agricultural training and IT, Sharma said.
South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told the Forum that the BRICS trade ministers had, in their earlier discussions, agreed that they would support regional integration and industrialisation measures between their respective countries.
Davies noted that the success of the BRICS partnership would be measured not only in the amount by which trade increased, but also in the partnerships that members were able to develop to support growth in productive capacity.
Delegates at the Business Forum were optimistic about the African market.
Paritosh Gupta, chief executive of Indian infrastructure company IL&FS, said his firm had been visiting east and southern Africa for five years now in search of rail, mine and roads projects.
“Definitely in the next five years, this will be a very happening place, and I think South Africa in a way will be a gateway to eastern Africa,” Gutpa said, adding that South Africa could provide strong legal and financial support.
Andrey Makov, of Russian machine-building company UVZ, said there were “a lot of prospects in the development of economic relations between South Africa and Russia in many spheres”, adding that he believed South Africa could play a key role in driving investment in Africa as the “locomotive” of growth.
Writing in a special BRICS edition of the magazine “Russia and India”, the vice-president of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Georgy Petrov, pointed out that there were many Russian companies already in South Africa, in areas such as mining and hydrocarbons.
“I would say Russian business is returning to Africa, and South Africa is becoming a gateway to the African continent for Russian people,” Petrov wrote.
The fifth BRICS summit will be officially opened on Wednesday when South African President Jacob Zuma and his BRIC counterparts meet for formal discussions.