12 April 2013
South Africa has a important role to play within the BRICS grouping, both as a gateway to the continent and as a catalyst for African integration, Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill told the tenth annual conference of the African Venture Capital Association in Cape Town this week.
O’Neill, the man responsible for coining the original acronym BRIC, to stand for the fast-growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, had previously criticized South Africa’s inclusion in the grouping, based on the country’s relatively smaller population and economy.
On Tuesday, news agency AFP quoted O’Neill as saying that South Africa “has a big role to play [within the grouping] and probably quite a responsibility in being some kind of genuine gateway to helping the rest of Africa become more successful”.
Referring to the agreement reached at the 5th BRICS summit in Durban last month, to establish a BRICS development bank to help finance infrastructure programmes in the BRICS and other developing countries, O’Neill said this was “probably the first real sign that this grouping has managed to do something together”.
According to AFP, O’Neill was bullish about Africa’s growth potential, saying it was “one part of the world that has got a very high growth rate that is accelerating”, and pointing to an Africa growth forecast of six percent this decade.
If Africa could improve its technology, education and governance standards, as well as strengthen its trade and infrastructure links – and here was the role South Africa could play – “then my goodness me, it is not only the next decade [that is going to be Africa’s], it is going to be the next three or four,” O’Neill said.