Building capacity to help Africa trade better

BRICS in Africa: Working towards the realisation of the African aspirations


BRICS in Africa: Working towards the realisation of the African aspirations

BRICS in Africa: Working towards the realisation of the African aspirations
Photo credit: DIRCO News Agency | Katlholo Maifadi

Speech by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Reginah Mhaule, during the BRICS Stakeholder Engagement held on 27 June 2018 in partnership with the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) as part of build-up events to the 10th BRICS Summit

It is an honour for me to be afforded this opportunity to engage with you on this occasion of South Africa’s membership of the BRICS formation. South Africa will be hosting the BRICS Summit in July 2018, at the time this formation marks its 20 year anniversary which coincides with the commemoration of the centenary of Nelson Mandela who would have turned 100 this year had he lived longer. I would not leave out the fact that we also commemorate the centenary of another icon of the South African liberation struggle Mama Albertina Sisulu.

Both Tata Madiba and Mama Sisulu have contributed immensely on laying the foundation of an independent and democratic foreign policy which we continue to implement.

As we have heard about the BRICS formation and our country’s membership to it, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa represents one of the most significant developments in global government and this is a bloc that brings together sufficiently great members of emerging powers that are designed to take significant international decision and in the negotiations of major global affairs.

This countries are joined together by a strong desire to change the world system with the purpose of reflecting the diversity of the world power, economies, culture and the societies in general.

Allow me to contextualise the South Africa’s membership of the BRICS formation for the benefit of all our stakeholders by quoting our Leader Nelson Mandela’s words at the world economic forum Southern Africa summit in 1994, when he said “this is our collective achievement which has opened up new opportunities for us to exploit our great potential and indeed to boldly cross the threshold of a new and great era.”

The formation of BRICS by the emerging powers has attracted significant academic interest which resulted into a significant growth in literature on the subject.

BRICS represents 43 percent of the world’s population and that triggered academic interest in understanding the political, economic, social, scientific and technological importance of the figuration of the world power, both its potentials and its weaknesses.

As a result different BRICS forums were established such as the academic forum, business forum, the young diplomatic forum and others. 

Former President Mandela, in his capacity as our Head of State and Government, championed the strengthening of regional and international economic cooperation to ensure that we leverage the existing and new opportunities while adhering to our international obligations. In 2011 when our Country was invited to join the then BRIC formation, South Africa favourably considered the invite because it is in line with the vision of our forefathers, which is the strengthening of international economic cooperation for mutual benefit as already stated above.

South Africa is not in the BRICS for its own sake, and perhaps for selfish consideration only, but is there to advance the interest and aspirations of Africa, the Global South and humanity at large.

I must also take this opportunity to briefly reflect on the genesis of our solidarity with countries of the South so that we can properly locate the BRICS formation in this regard. 63 years ago, in April 1955, countries of Asia and Africa met at the historic Bandung Conference to determine their common position amid the fast emerging Cold War bi-polarisation.

South Africa was represented, among others, by none other than Moses Kotane and Maulvi Cachalia. This is where the present day Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was conceived.

I hope that this brief background will enhance our collective comprehension of the locus of BRICS in South Africa’s foreign policy. I know that in some quotas our membership of the BRICS formation was and continues to be deliberately misrepresented as a negation of our relations with the development partners of the North. It is wrongly perceived as a deviation from our founding foreign policy principle. We have stated so many times that this formation must be regarded as a complimentary mechanism and is based on our founding principles and foreign policy pillars

I must therefore urge everybody to work hard so that this formation is construed truly for what it stands for.

Of course the BRICS formation was bound to tilt the balances of forces at global level considering that we, among others, collectively produce a third of the world’s industrial products and one half of agricultural goods. During its infantry stages, researches estimated that the BRICS will dominate the world by 2050, however the revised projections indicates that this could happen as early as 2027.

Distractors of the BRICS thought and communicated that this would be another talk show with no tangible deliverables. We can however agree that it is a force to be reckoned with in the international arena and has contributed to increased dispersal of global political and economic power. I must state that the progress that has been recorded thus far is due to our collective commitment to see through the implementation of all our decisions which are always based on consensus.

Brand SA in its recent Research Report titled: “The BRICS brand: from economic concept to institution of global governance”, indicates that between the years 2009 and 2017 BRICS Summits made a total of 406 summit declarations. Brand SA further informs us that 70% of summit decisions have been implemented to date.

They further indicate that, in an effort to deepen and widen cooperation and collaboration, the BRICS formation has convened approximately 160 meetings at different levels, convened by Ministers of trade, finance, foreign affairs, health, agriculture, statistical authorities, and competition commissions which led to the adoption of 60 documents which in turn is giving effect to working groups, contact groups and related platforms to coordinate activities.

I urge you to read this entire report because it is an important yard stick to measure the success of the BRICS formation of which we are proud of.

We therefore seek to build on the already recorded achievement and ensure that our chair ship increases support for Africa’s development Agenda. We have an opportunity to leverage on the tectonic shift in global power dynamics and reassert ourselves as a united and renewed continent. This is what we are as the continent!!!

We are going to have a dedicated discussion during the Africa-Outreach meeting of selected Heads of State and government in the margins of the July Summit. I can assure you that building on the Durban 2013 out-reach approach, the 2018 Summit will produce practical steps to continue the BRICS support for the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 through the BRICS.

This comes at a time when the continent has made great strides in pursuit of economically integrated Africa which promotes the movement of goods and services. As you may be aware the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) was signed in Rwanda in March this year and we continue with our national processes which will culminate in the country’s accession to the agreement.

President Ramaphosa underscored the importance of an integrated African economy during the Japan-Africa Public-Private Economic Forum when he said:

“For Africa to grow and for its people to flourish, its economies need to be more effectively integrated into the global economy.”

In this way we will be able to improve Intra-Africa trade and leverage more on the alternative funding that the BRICS New Development Bank provides for infrastructure development and sustainable development. The continent is already benefiting in this regard, particularly, in implementing the BRICS funded African Union (AU) North-South Development Corridor projects.

On our part we benefitted from the 2016 approved BRICS project funding when we were granted 180 million USD for renewable energy which helped us to stabilise our electricity grid during difficult times in this area. We have just been granted an additional loan of USD 200 million by the NDB in May 2018 for expansion of the Durban port. I must confess that for a newly established multilateral bank by developing nations to have disbursed loans totalling USD 5.1 billion by 2018 not be expected by many who expressed doubt during the establishment of the Bank.

I also wish to reflect briefly on the concept of the BRICS Plus which was innovated by China in 2017. We wish to continue with this approach to ensure maximum synergy between our Chairship of BRICS and that of China. In this regard, South Africa has elected to invite the Leaders of the following countries representing Regional Economic Communities in the Global South and the United Nations namely:

  • Argentina – as Chair of the G20 and influential Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) member

  • Indonesia – as Co-Chair of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership with South Africa and influential Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member

  • Egypt – as Chair of the Group of 77 (G77) +China

  • Jamaica – as incoming Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

  • Turkey – as Chair of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

  • United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres

Together with my colleagues we have continued to highlight this approach to all our stakeholders and also inform them about the following newly identified areas of cooperation:

  • Establishment of a Working Group on Peacekeeping;

  • Establishment of a Vaccine Research Centre for Collaboration with BRICS vaccine innovation and development partners – this is intended to be a physical research centre focused on research and development and vaccine innovation;

  • Establishment of a BRICS Gender and Women’s Forum – intended as a dedicated track for gender and women’s issues, given the economic benefit to be derived from the socio-economic empowerment of women, particularly in developing countries;

  • Leveraging the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership towards the pursuit of Inclusive Growth and Advancing the 4th Industrial Revolution – this is intended to foster discussions to addresses opportunities provided by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as a means of leapfrogging development stages and bridging the digital divide; and

  • Establishment of a BRICS Tourism Track of Cooperation.

South Africa’s approach to its Chairship is grounded in the intention to ensure programmatic continuity for BRICS, and committed to executing approximately 100 sectorial meetings, reflective of the expanded BRICS architecture. We also intend to bring a specific focus to the challenges and opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

It is my considered view that through this lecture we have a solid foundation for debating various elements of South Africa’s membership of the BRICS. Am also certain that we will do so with a view to improve in areas that require such improvement but also ensure common and collective improved comprehension of the subject matter. 

We must always remember the world we operate in and remain alive to the challenges we are facing as a continent, the Global South and humanity at large.

I thank you!


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