Cape Town - The South Africa Brics Business Council (SABBC) is setting targets in line with the economic imperatives of the country, says chairperson of the body, Dr Iqbal Survé. He was appointed chairperson of the council by the cabinet this year.
The Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa alliance established the Brics Business Council in March 2013. Its objective is to work hand-in-hand with their governments to find new ways for economic growth and social cohesion for billions of people.
“We set ourselves on a course to roll back centuries of economic drought. Brics gives us an opportunity to create jobs, and work in partnerships to reskill and upskill our workforce,” Dr Survé says. He says since taking over the chairmanship he has been hard at work to ensure the council delivers on its mandate to facilitate and promote trade and industry.
“The business council plays a crucial role. It's there to ensure that as a country we can channel foreign direct investment across the world, from Brazil, Russia, India and China,” Dr Survé said. What is key for him to create wealth for the billions of people living in Brics countries is for everyone to work together.
“To achieve this we have to make sure that the business and public sectors are aligned in implementing plans based on the shared vision for economic growth.”
The seven working groups; infrastructure, deregulation, agribusiness, financial services, skills, manufacturing and energy and the green economy work in concert with their counterparts in Brics, but also with each other. While all seven are of utmost importance, Dr Survé says deregulation, skills development and building infrastructure are high on the list of priorities for the BBC.
“Brics countries have cut some red tape to allow for ease of business, making investors more willing to operate in South Africa. But we also need the necessary skills to provide investors with the human capital they need. “Infrastructure is important: as more corporations invest, we need roads, bridges, better rail infrastructure and to increase our capacity at ports,” says Dr Survé.
Brics, he adds, is the framework for the sharing of technologies and capital and resources in a structured way. “This gives us a chance of competing in a globalised world, because if we didn’t have that opportunity, we would be left to the mercy of the markets, and the markets can be very brutal and ruthless to you if you do not have the ability to withstand it.
"So at least with the formation of Brics, all five countries are able to group their resources to be able to compete effectively. “Through Brics we have access to the global market, and access to capital. The government debt is 51.7percent of the GDP; most of the country's budget goes to servicing that debt and investing in infrastructure. Therefore, because we are constrained, we cannot invest in new opportunities to create jobs. But our partners in Brics who have the capital, are able to invest to create jobs,” he points out.
Dr Survé says the government has to be credited for realising the goal for South Africa to be a partner in the multilateral forum. “The private sector has seen how the state continues to amend policies and laws to create attractive conditions to draw investments.”
Dr Survé believes it is not up to the government alone to fix South Africa’s unemployment woes. The state, he says, is not a creator of many jobs. This is where the private sector has a role to play, to work hand-in-hand with the government. “South Africa has participated in many multinational institutions, such as the UN, the AU, and the G20. Our partnership with Brics is not meant to be at the exclusion of other investment partners, such as the EU and North America. It is intended to augment these partnerships and draw increased investment,” he says.
Dr Survé points out that protectionism politics from traditional trading partners such as the US, and some European countries, has had immediate negative economic consequences for South Africa, and the 1.2billion-strong African family. “We have to remain innovative and in tune with our alliance. We must see Brics as a flotilla, able to survive the headwinds and the storms,” he said.
Brics is fast moving to work with “Brics Plus and Brics Plus-Plus” countries surrounding Brics nations. Brics Plus will create regional networks in logistics, transport and finance.
Referring to the Brics Summit to be held in Xiamen City in China's Fujian Province next month, Dr Survé says there will be ministerial multilateral co-operation at senior ministerial level as well as business multilateral co-operation and academic, cultural and other levels of co-operation. "Because it is under the ambit of the five governments, all these various spheres of co-operation are given real substance and support and they are not simply there to discuss things as at talk shops, but to implement decisions which are ultimately in the interest of the five countries and their regions.”
Dr Survé says globalisation - which is, in essence, the rapid flow of monies, resources and technologies, made possible because of integration of the international economy - was intended to enable countries to grow rapidly if they are correctly positioned for such growth. Globalisation can result in huge inflows of capital and resources which, if managed properly, can bring dramatic and exponential change to the fortunes of a country and has the capability to take hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
Globalisation, however, can also be detrimental to countries if they are unable to enter into the international community on an equal footing. Dr Survé says the benefits of globalisation have always been for those countries with significant financial resources.
He says Brics gives South Africa an opportunity to realise the objectives of economic and social growth. Dr Survé says his personal interest is human development and people.
“At a micro-level, by promoting people development, you create a situation where people have an incentive to contribute towards societies and cohesion and stabilisation, and that, in turn, leads to much better peaceful co-existence within a society itself. “I really believe that the best way to give people dignity is to put in place a structure for their development.
"This could be a philanthropy, investing in a way that has a positive social impact, and by employing people.”
- BUSINESS REPORT