Building capacity to help Africa trade better

BRICS: South Africa’s Way Ahead?


BRICS: South Africa’s Way Ahead?

BRICS: South Africa’s Way Ahead?

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The accession of South Africa into the ‘BRICS’ formation has attracted wide attention internationally. Some welcomed the step while others questioned it. A closer look at BRICS reveals that these countries share some fundamental features while they differ in other respects.

The BRIC acronym was coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001. The founding members of this political formation are Brazil, Russia, India and China. The formation of the BRIC was motivated by global economic developments and changes in geopolitical configurationsSouth Africa joined the group in 2011, thus opening the possibility of putting Africa on the BRICS’ agenda. South Africa’s admission to the group was motivated by China and supported by Russia. Its accession to the BRICS generated much discussion about the country’s suitability to be part of the formation.

One of the real issues raised is that South Africa does not measure up to the other BRIC economies in terms of population, trade levels and performance, and growth rates. A formation such as the BRICS is of value to South Africa only if the country’s strategic development interests (relating, for example, to agriculture) are to be on the agenda. South Africa faces particular challenges related to market access into the BRIC countries.

Agricultural issues amongst the BRICS are discussed under the Standing Expert Working Group on Agriculture and Agrarian Development. The issues that are prioritised include:

  • The development of a general strategy for access to food (this is where market access needs to be tabled), which is tasked to Brazil;

  • Impact of climate change on food security, which is allocated to South Africa;

  • The enhancement of agricultural technology, cooperation and innovation that is allocated to India; and

  • Creation of an information base of BRICS countries that is allocated to China.

In 2012, at the annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa, the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) co-hosted a workshop aimed at establishing a dialogue on how agriculture can benefit from South Africa’s membership of the BRICS. It emerged clearly from the workshop that agriculture needs to be better positioned to benefit from the BRICS formation. One important issue that was noted was that market access for South African agricultural produce into the BRICS countries could be improved.

In this regard, an honest question was raised whether, as the country’s agriculture stakeholders, we fold our arms and do nothing since this is a political formation (while market access is an economic issue), or whether we use this political formation to address our socioeconomic issues as they relate to these countries. Market access is one of the issues of interest to South Africa’s agriculture industry within the BRICS formation, together with issues such as the diffusion of technologies and collaborations.

The research that is presented in this book addresses a range of important issues related to the trade and investment relations among the BRICS countries, in particular the performance of their agricultural sectors. There is also a focus on the relationship between BRICS and Africa, and what this means for South Africa’s trade relations with other African countries.

© 2013 Trade Law Centre, National Agricultural Marketing Council, Royal Danish Embassy, and Swedish Embassy, Nairobi

Publication of this book was made possible by the support of the Trade Law Centre (tralac), National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), the Royal Danish Embassy, and the Swedish Embassy, Nairobi. The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the view of any of these institutions.

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