BRICS Summit has come and gone: will SA see sustained benefits into the future?

File photo of South African fans waving the national flags as they wait for the start of the 2010 World Cup. Picture: Reuters

File photo of South African fans waving the national flags as they wait for the start of the 2010 World Cup. Picture: Reuters

Published Aug 28, 2023


The sounds and magnitude of fighter jets flying over Sandton and its neighbouring suburbs in Johannesburg between the 22nd and 24th of August was a stark reminder that power had descended on our shores and concentrated at this richest square mile in Africa.

Just like the 2010 Soccer World Cup, South Africa proved to be a perfect host of a global magnitude event. The summit was executed without any incidences and South Africa once again showcased her hospitality.

The 15th BRICS Summit concluded on a very high note, highlighting a momentous occasion and significant history on the African soil. President Cyril Ramaphosa made a pronunciation that BRICS leaders had adopted guiding principles on the BRICS expansion to include Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

These developments transpire from the driving theme of the Summit, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism”. A theme that has resulted in great outcomes in the summit.

According to China’s President Xi Jinping, “a historical moment has happened in South Africa”.

The outcome of the expansion of the alliance has been seen as very strategic and influential, with Islamic countries that are rich in oil reserves included in the expansion. The expansion is a testament to the increasing influence arena and its potential to shape the future of global finance.

This means that from January 1, 2024, the alliance will have the largest oil reserves in the world, changing the landscape of geopolitics with member countries advised to trade in their native currencies.

The finance ministers, together with the central bank governors of member countries, will have to report back at the next summit – to be held in Russia – on how using native currencies for trade settlements has been advantageous or not, ending reliance on the US dollar. An indication of how important growth and inclusivity is for the alliance as it continues to advocate for sustainable development.

The 2010 Soccer World Cup was also executed with splendour and it concluded on a high note as well. It promised us an improved and more economically inclusive South Africa.

Some of the immediate significant benefits were the multibillion-rand infrastructure developments. Eskom spent billions on energy generation, transmission and distribution. The Gautrain was completed, Rea Vaya bus transport system and state roads were improved, along with airports and the Dube Trade Port. Crime decreased, and we saw many other gains.

Yet, fast forward to today, Eskom is hardly able to generate enough electricity to sustain businesses and economic growth. Approximately 82 people are murdered every day and one wonders what happened to the system that was developed during the World Cup that saw crime statistics dropping. Transnet currently has many problems, mostly self-generated, such as state capture.

The lessons from the 2010 Soccer World Cup are that South Africa is a great host and we can co-ordinate and behave correctly when under pressure and global spotlight. However, we soon relax and possibly even start to self-sabotage.

These are lessons we need to bring to this 15th BRICS Summit. With all the promises of a transformed geopolitical landscape, led by our very own President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa cannot afford to sleep on the job. We must take seriously the leadership position that has befell us and be strategic, deliberate and reinforce our role as a gateway for Africa’s participation within BRICS.

The African Free Trade agreement will now more than ever be a crucial enabler to ensure that all the trade benefits and opportunities are realised throughout Africa. The alliance should also present opportunities to cross pollinate best cultural practices, norms as well as ideas and replicate some of the strategies that countries such as China and India used to lift numbers of their population out of poverty.

South Africa has a lot to offer in leading the alliance countries on how to manage social and cultural cohesion. This will be a crucial enabler to ensure relationships are well managed and sustained, considering the diversity of the group.

As much as many of the 2010 Soccer World Cup gains may have been reversed, the one gain that has endured is social unity in a country that was marked by palpable racial tensions.

As a university student at a time, my white colleagues were nervous that the country would disappoint and we would be a global embarrassment, because they simply did not trust the government. Yet, months and days before the hosting, the mood and spirit completely shifted and we were all proudly showcasing the South African flag in our homes, cars, office buildings and everywhere. May we remember this and lead the BRICS+ countries to a cohesive trade destination.

Dr Sibongile Vilakazi is the president of the Black Management Forum.