South Africa is preparing to host the fifth Brics Summit and the first meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on African soil in Durban on March 27. This historic event, convened under the theme “Brics and Africa – Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation”, will be preceded by a meeting of the Brics ministers of trade and economic development on March 26.
South Africa’s membership of the Brics Forum has become a vital element of our global economic strategy, and as the incoming Brics chair, South Africa will play a key role in shaping the agenda for economic co-operation.
There are four strategic considerations that anchor our participation in the forum. First, South Africa seeks to use the forum to build stronger economic linkages with the fastest growing and most dynamic economies. The International Monetary Fund’s latest forecast for 2013 indicates that emerging market and developing economies will grow by 5.5 percent this year, compared with growth of 1.2 percent in advanced economies. Our prospects for growth and development will depend increasingly on diversifying and strengthening our economic links with Brics economies and with Africa.
Second, the forum provides a platform to address some of the challenges arising from the rapid growth in intra-Brics trade. A core concern for South Africa is the structure of trade, whereby our exports to China, India and Brazil continue to be dominated by low value-added products. One of the priorities for our term as Brics chair is to co-ordinate a joint study to explore ways to promote more value-added exports that will support our industrial development objectives.
Third, there is an historic opportunity for the Brics countries to champion a new paradigm for collaboration for more sustainable, equitable and mutually beneficial development. This should involve closer co-operation among the Brics countries to support our growth, development and poverty objectives, building on our respective economic strengths and avoiding competition. This may be achieved by identifying complementarities in key growth sectors and through a value chain approach.
Finally, the forum offers a unique opportunity for Brics countries to extend and advance their co-operation in ways that meaningfully promote the economic development agenda of other developing countries and regions.
Two years ago at the Sanya summit, Brics leaders established the Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues to develop and advance joint work programmes on a range of trade, investment and economic matters. The contact group, which meets in Pretoria this week at senior official level, will lay the basis for the trade ministers’ meeting in March. It will focus on strengthening Brics co-ordination in the multilateral arena, notably in the World Trade Organisation, and advance co-operation on key aspects of intra-Brics trade issues, small and medium-sized enterprise development and investment policy and promotion. South Africa will also articulate and promote the African economic development agenda as agreed by African governments, particularly in respect of support to continental integration, infrastructure development and industrialisation.
Deepened co-operation between Brics countries and Africa offer enormous potential for building Africa-Brics economic co-operation on a sustainable and mutually beneficial basis over the next decades. This opportunity should be seized.
Rob Davies is the Minister of Trade and Industry.