25 March 2013
South Africa’s membership of the BRICS grouping of influential emerging economies fits in with the objectives of the country’s National Development Plan (NDP), says President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma was briefing reporters in Pretoria on Monday on the eve of the country’s hosting the 5th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, which gets under way in Durban on Tuesday.
Zuma said that being a BRICS member “fits in well with our NDP objectives of raising employment through faster economic growth, improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation, as well as building the capacity of the state to play a developmental, transformative role”.
He said the collective strength of the BRICS economies was a crucial factor in the global economy, adding that South Africa valued its membership of BRICS immensely.
“At a global level, we want to obtain increased support for the reform of international financial institutions, the revival of the Doha Development Agenda, as well as the reform of the United Nations, including the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
To further expand economic relations, a BRICS Business Forum will take place in Durban on Tuesday, with focus areas including infrastructure, energy, financial services, mining and beneficiation, and agro-processing. The forum will be attended by 125 delegates from China, 125 from Russia, 74 from India, 60 from Brazil and 242 from South Africa.
Other deliberations will focus on a proposed BRICS Trade and Risk Development Pool, which would harness the five countries’ collective reinsurance capacity as well as facilitate intra-BRICS trade and investment.
The Business Forum will also deliberate on the envisaged BRICS undersea cable, a proposed high-capacity optic fibre cable of 28 400km linking the BRICS countries.
Zuma said that a major summit output for South Africa would be the establishment of a BRICS Development Bank “to assist in mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICWS and other emerging economies”.
The BRICS finance ministers are expected to present results of a feasibility study on the planned BRICS bank during the summit.
Zuma said the importance of BRICS for South Africa was best reflected in bilateral trade relations at a practical level. In 2012, South Africa’s total trade with the BRICS countries stood at R294-billion – an 11 percent increase on the 2011 figure of R264-billion.
Total trade with Brazil grew from R18-billion in 2011 to R20-billion in 2012, representing growth of 11 percent, while trade with Russia increased from R3-billion in 2011 to R5-billion in 2012, representing growth of 45 percent.
Total trade with India, South Africa’s sixth-largest trading partner, grew from R53-billion in 2011 to R67-billion in 2012, representing growth of over 26 percent.
China is South Africa’s largest bilateral trading partner, with total trade expanding from R188.42-billion in 2011 to R201-billion in 2012, representing growth of 7 percent.
According to Zuma, intra-Brics trade expanded by 28 percent in 2011 to reach US$230-billion.
Zuma also announced that he will be hosting the BRICS Leaders Africa Dialogue Forum Retreat after the conclusion of this week’s summit. The Africa retreat will meet under the theme, “Unlocking Africa’s potential: BRICS and Africa Cooperation on Infrastructure”.
“The Retreat will reflect primarily on infrastructure development, as well as integration and industrialisation, which are aligned to Africa’s own priorities, for the mutual benefit of the BRICS countries and the continent,” Zuma said.