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Kuben Chetty | 22 August 2023

The BRICS summit starts today, with more than 40 heads of state expected in Johannesburg to discuss the expansion of the bloc, trade and partnerships in what is being described as a “new world order”.

The inclusion of leaders such as Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, India’s Narendra Modi and the People’s Republic of China’s Xi Jinping would have been significant in itself, but President Cyril Ramaphosa has also extended invites to African leaders and the Global South.

The Russian Federation will be led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while President Vladimir Putin will join the summit via video link.

Putin and Ramaphosa reached a formal agreement for the former not to attend after the International Criminal Court (ICC), of which South Africa is a full member, issued a warrant of arrest against Putin for alleged war crimes related to the war in Ukraine.

By yesterday, the SAPS and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department had cordoned off parts of Sandton’s business district in anticipation of the delegates.

The theme of “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism” underpins the bloc’s aims including peaceful resolution of conflict, trade agreements that benefit partners, the development of economies and to commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

One of the issues to be discussed is the expansion of the bloc, with 22 countries, including Türkiye, Indonesia, Egypt and Argentina, having applied to join BRICS. Another issue on the table is how BRICS countries can trade in local currencies.

Professor Anil Sooklal, Ambassador-at-Large for Asia and BRICS and South Africa's BRICS Sherpa, said the summit would run concurrently with the BRICS business forum, which not only provided an opportunity for the bloc’s countries and the private sector to gather, but was also an opportunity for the African sector and private sector from the Global South to engage.

“A large number of countries have converged on South Africa, and the business sector will look at deepening economic interaction, trade opportunities and partnerships.” Sooklal said the importance of the country chairing the summit was that it was also important for the continent.

“The focus will be on the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement and the opportunity for mutual benefit between BRICS countries and Africa.”

South Africa’s overall trade with its BRICS partners has increased by an average growth of 10% between 2017 and 2021, and the bloc accounted for 21% of South Africa’s global trade last year.

Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade and Industry, speaking at the BRICS business forum in a discussion on the manufacturing sector at Gallagher Convention Centre yesterday, said there was a shift driven by the emergence of new technologies and innovations. South Africa signed two memorandums of understanding with China at the event to help fast track industrialisation.

One agreement was concluded by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) with the China Africa Development Fund, making R10 billion available to accelerate the industrialisation of South Africa’s economy, specifically the manufacturing sector. The other was between the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Bank of China, which was described as a mutually beneficial agreement for increased trade. Patel said the BRICS gathering provided an opportunity for reflection and the sharing of ideas, partnerships and opportunities.

“Member countries play a key role in harnessing green industrialisation and digital industrialisation to transform our economics, our societies and the lives of our citizens. “South Africa is ready to partner with all of the BRICS countries on the development of new energy vehicles and sharing of technologies, raw materials, and of capital and market experience in a mutually beneficial partnership.”

Patel said he wanted to encourage BRICS members to enter into partnerships and joint ventures in new technologies and in green industrialisation.

“Increased investment can be boosted by encouraging your companies to open manufacturing operations in South Africa and on the African continent.”

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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