Jacob Zuma
Durban - Africa’s growth potential and lessons from the Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) were under the spotlight at the dinner on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban.

Captains of industry, government ministers and business people from Brics countries engaged in discussions centred on deepening trade engagements, exploring investment opportunities into infrastructure, the role of the new Brics Development Bank and the opportunities it created for African public-private sector co-operation

Dr Iqbal Survé, chairman of Sekunjalo and of the South African Chapter of the Brics Business Council, said one of the objectives for convening the dinner, and one of his aims since being appointed chairman, was to demystify the Brics Business Council and make it more accessible.

Survé said South Africa could learn a lot from its Brics partners, especially China and India, as these countries were also the country’s biggest trade partners.

Speaking before the dinner, he said it would be hard to talk of growth without speaking of China, the second largest economy in the world and soon to be first.

The dinner was held under the theme: “Brics: Africa’s growth opportunity” and started with a discussion with high level panellists, including Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

The minister concurred that there were many lessons to be learnt from Brics countries, particularly China, as that country had managed to grow its economy and provide services like housing for its massive population.

He emphasised that Africa had to grow as a region and that required investment in things such as connectivity and infrastructure.

He said countries like India and China were now turning to building their domestic markets to expand their productive capabilities.

Davies said to emulate that, African countries needed to pursue strategies as a region, as that provided the necessary impetus to promote deep industrialisation.

Kevin Taylor, the British Telecommunications (BT) president for Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, discussed lessons from South-East Asia that could be applied to South Africa and the wider Brics countries and nations.

He said changes brought about by digital transformation offered new opportunities in improving customer experiences, making operational efficiencies and creating new business models.

“In BT we are now trialling drones to deliver spare parts to places remotely for engineering,” he said. Taylor said Africa was quickly catching up and was now not too far behind when compared with the likes of China.

“Networks becoming software not hardware means that when I was in Africa just three or four years ago I thought it was 15 years behind Asia, and now I think it is just four or five years behind Asia.”