Fourth Industrial Revolution a step closer
Industry Ministers from BRICS countries on Wednesday, 4 July, 2018 signed a Declaration on the implementation of the Digital Industrial Revolution (DIR).
The Ministers met at the Africa Pride Mount Grace Hotel, in Magaliesburg, for the third BRICS Industry Ministers’ meeting.
Briefing the media after the meeting, South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said he and his counterparts had discussed issues of skills development and capacity building for the fourth industrial revolution or DIR.
“We adopted a declaration. The gist of it is that we have been talking about partnerships within BRICS to prepare us all for the fourth industrial revolution and to ensure that the benefits of this are widely defused and they outweigh the risks and downsides,” he said.
This, the Minister said, would require cooperation and active intervention to ensure that the aim is achieved.
The Ministers have also resolved to establish an advisory group which would move into a concrete development of a programme to give effect to cooperation in six areas.
“One of them is the area of policy and regulatory frameworks. The other one is opportunities of cooperation in advanced technical skills and training, exchange of information in best practice with regards to digitization, capacity building, projects which secure inclusive and equitable growth for greater synergy of human and financial resources.
“This advisory will also work closely with the BRICS advisory council,” he said, adding that the BRICS Business Council will have its meeting on 23 July in Durban.
The meeting also heard from Chinese companies with operations in South Africa which detailed how their investments in the country were learning experiences for the digital industrial revolution.
African Continental Free Trade Area
Meanwhile, Minister Davies said South Africa’s signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement with the African Union, was a significant development.
“It’s a very significant and strategic development,” said the Minister at Wednesday’s briefing. The agreement will pave the way for the country to benefit from inter-regional trade within the African continent.
It is envisaged that the agreement will contribute to the growth and diversification of the South African economy and therefore create jobs, as well as reduce inequality and unemployment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the agreement during the AU Summit that took place from 1-2 July 2018 in the Republic of Mauritania.
“The significance of the AfCFTA is that it is intended to boost intra-regional trade which is at very low levels of about 12% of total trade... that’s very small compared to other regions. Behind that lies a vision of many of us that it is by creating a large market and emulating what China is doing now turning to its domestic market when trade conditions become tight.”
This, said the Minister, can create a large market that will allow the emergence of reaching value chains and “will assist us all to move up the value chain from producing primary commodities into industrial products”.
Meanwhile, the Minister is set to attend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Washington, DC next week.
In March 2016, government announced that it had concluded negotiations on poultry, beef and pork with the United States, a move that brought to a close months of discussions with the US on the terms required for South Africa to secure its position in AGOA.
In November 2015, then US President Barack Obama announced that the duty-free entry into the US of South Africa’s agricultural exports under AGOA would end if South Africa’s health restrictions on the import of US poultry, beef and pork were not lifted by 4 January. However, the deadline was extended to 15 March 2016.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Davies said AGOA is not a negotiated agreement.
“It’s a series of concessions offered to countries, an act of [US] Congress. There will be a lot of discussions. AGOA underpins a relatively balanced trading agreement between us [and the US] and we are saying if it isn’t broke it needs no fixing so that’s our message.”
AGOA is a legislation that provides duty-free market access to the US for qualifying sub-Saharan African countries by extending preferences on more than 4 600 products. AGOA was reauthorized in June 2015 for 10 years until 2025, with South Africa’s inclusion.