Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation was briefed by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) on preparations for the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, to be held in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August.
Ben Joubert from Dirco said the theme of the summit was “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism”.
To address this theme, five key priorities were selected:
– Developing a partnership towards an equitable Just Transition. This aim is to alleviate the effects of climate by moving towards a net zero carbon dioxide emissions target by 2050, while at the same time ensuring that no one gets left behind.
– Transforming education and skills development for the future. This is especially pressing as the latest test results show that a massive 81% of South Africa’s Grade 4 learners cannot read with meaning. It is also a priority for the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to equip the youth with the skills needed to benefit from this megatrend.
– Unlocking opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Area. To help with achieving this priority, the Gauteng provincial government hosted a briefing on the Inter Africa Trade Fair that will be held in Cairo, Egypt in November 2023.
– Strengthening post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. In that respect, the BRICS Co-operation in Customs Matters Agreement (CCMA) has been finalised, but not yet signed.
– Strengthening multilateralism, including working toward real reform of global governance institutions and strengthening the meaningful participation of women in peace processes. BRICS has been promoting this measure for several years, but as of now there has been no structural reform of the UN Security Council for several decades.
To promote the above priorities, South Africa would host some 200 events this year that would address these issues. In particular, cabinet approved five deliverables.
These were the first BRICS workshop on incident management that would address the issue of cybersecurity. Establish a BRICS Centre for Industrial Competencies. Establish the BRICS African JET Centre of Excellence. Launch an Energy Skills Roadmap. Establish a BRICS-Africa WBA Platform.
The first day of the BRICS Summit will be devoted to financial matters with briefings by the BRICS Business Council, the BRICS New Development Bank and the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance.
The portfolio committee members wanted to know how Dirco was addressing the issues of the potential expansion of BRICS, as well as the issue of whether South Africa would arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin in accordance with the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Dirco said that as South Africa had been the first recipient of the expansion of BRIC to BRICS in 2010, it favoured a further expansion, but as BRICS was a consensus seeking body, any expansion had to be a unanimous decision by all members.
With respect to the issue of Putin, Dirco said they were looking at Section 98 of the Rome Statute and would report back to the committee once there was legal clarity as to the way forward.
Helmo Preuss: Economist at Forecaster Ecosa