KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism MEC, Sihle Zikalala, briefs media on the opening day of the BRICS Business Council meeting taking place in Durban. PHOTO: ANA Reporter

DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal would be looking at the two-day BRICS Business Council meeting taking place in Durban as a key opportunity to attract investment into the province, according to economic development and tourism MEC, Sihle Zikalala.

Zikalala, also the acting provincial Premier, was addressing the media at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban on Sunday morning during the first day of the BRICS economic bloc’s business council conference. About 500 delegates – including business leaders from BRICS nations – are expected to attend.

“When we took over the presidency [of BRICS] this year, we agreed as government that we would work together to ensure that as South Africa chairs BRICS, we would [use this period] to augment investment in South Africa and Africa.

“This platform is one where we will be presenting ourselves as the province and the country [of choice],” said Zikalala. The focus would be on key catalytic projects.

Emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are member states of BRICS and are working to enhance, amongst others, commercial, cultural, scientific, security and political opportunities amongst the nations. Together, the BRICS bloc accounts for over 42% of the world’s population.

The latest figures indicate that South Africa’s total trade in BRICS was R461 billion, said Zikalala, which was an increase on the R425 billion traded in 2016.

About 200,000 visitors from member countries visited South Africa in 2015, he added.

“BRICS is a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and cooperation. More than that, it is based on the fact that at a political level, the countries come from the same political orientation,” he said.

Zikalala said that although the BRICS summit itself was being hosted in Johannesburg, he was appreciative that the business council had decided to host its meeting in KwaZulu-Natal. Traditionally, the summit and business council are held within different cities of the host nation.

BRICS Business Council chair, Dr Iqbal Survé, said that the 2018 business council meeting was the largest in the history of the bloc. A three-hour investment session would be held on Sunday at the ICC to showcase the wares of the province and the country.

Survé said that although this was “unusual”, it was necessary to help South Africa market itself as a key investment destination to help achieve President Cyril Ramaphosa’s goal of attracting $100 billion in investment over the next five years.

The deliberations of the business council would form part of the council’s annual report - which has been worked on for the past nine months – and will be handed over to heads of state when they meet in Johannesburg later in the week.

The business council conference continues on Monday.

African News Agency (ANA)