South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and China's President Xi Jinping gestures during the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News AgencyANA

JOHANNESBURG - Brics business leaders have called for the much-touted Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to be embraced in order to grow the crucial sectors of member states’ economies. 

Aspen Pharmacare senior executive Stavros Nicolaou said the 4IR could be used as a catalyst to deepen industrial co-operation within the Brics member states and to attract foreign direct investment. 

“We might have lost opportunities with the 4IRst and third industrial revolutions, but we need to place our focus on capitalising on the 4IR,” said Nicolaou. 

He was speaking during a panel discussion at the 10th Brics Summit held in Johannesburg yesterday. 

The summit ends tomorrow. Nicolaou said the 4IR presented a key opportunity for the South African economy. He said drones could be used to deliver medicine to patients in far-flung rural areas of the country.

“I see us moving, or leapfrogging, in areas where South Africa has specific strength and specific need.” 

Lu Yimin, president and vice-chairperson of Chinese IT company Unicom, said the 4IR had brought infinite opportunities for the world economy. 

“Today, 4IR brings about new technologies,” Lu said. “The revolution is going in a faster, broader and deeper way than ever before.” 

He said the 4IR would bring great opportunities for the Brics countries and stressed that a digital economy was the future. 

“Digital economy has become the new engine for global economic growth. The 4IR provides possibilities for inclusive development, digital economies, intelligence.” 

Lu said the 4IR was the answer to what needed to be done to enable more people and countries to achieve much needed economic growth. 

Meanwhile, African Rainbow Minerals chairperson Patrice Motsepe said the private sector was uniquely positioned to partner with Brics to bring about infrastructure development in Africa. 

“If infrastructure development makes financial sense it will happen. South Africa invests billions of rand every year in Africa because it makes sense,” he said. 

He called on governments to create a globally competitive business environment 

“But there’s also a need for innovation and creativity. I think governments have understood that they need to create globally competitive business environments,” said Motsepe. 

Investors would consider investing in Africa if the continent was the best place to invest, he said. 

“We need to introduce tax incentives that allow significant investors to come here. We have to go a step further,” he said, adding that the chief executives of large companies in the JSE had invested heavily on the continent. 

“Let’s encourage these big global companies to see South Africa as their headquarters.” 

New Development Bank chief financial officer Leslie Maasdorp said the bank had approved $5.7 billion (R76.23bn) of infrastructure loans across the Brics countries. 

“In the next phase of our activities we will significantly expand our portfolio with 70 percent (of loans to the) government and 30 percent to the private sector. We want it (the bank) to be a truly global financial institution,” he said. 

Sergey Katyrin, chairperson of the Russian Chapter of the Brics Business Council, said there were many economic opportunities for Brics countries in Africa. 

“We have major players that have invested heavily in the South African economy, and major South African players that have invested in the Russian economy. We have mutually beneficial interests,” said Katyrin.