Durban - KWAZULU-NATAL, and especially Durban-based businesses, are expected to see “tangible” benefits running into millions of rand from the BRICS Business Council meeting taking place in the city this weekend.

Discussions between the 25-member council, made up of officials from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and chaired by Sekunjalo chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé, takes place ahead of the BRICS Summit to be held in Johannesburg next week.

Apart from the short-term boost to the eventing market that runs into millions of rand, and international exposure of the city, discussions are expected to lead to long-term growth of business and industry.

The president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Musa Makhunga, said: “Local businesses can benefit in ways such as infrastructure programmes, access to alternative funding models and capital, improved access to markets in and near BRICS nations, and skills development and knowledge sharing to enrich our workforce.”

Members of the chamber will represent the business community at the summit, and Makhunga said they would relate “some of the tangible benefits that will be available to business” afterwards.

“Discussions can set policy which dictates direct benefits to ordinary employees, businesses, entrepreneurs and potential employees. These discussions can/should lead to job creation as well as opportunity creation within our local market,” he said.

One of the key topics is trade relations between the countries and Makhunga said importance was placed on international trade agreements, and growing the local business sector.

“As much as ‘buy local’ is important for our local economy, we cannot ignore our trade agreements with international trade partners.

“We are committed to working towards an investment environment which is attractive and hospitable to investors both local and foreign and which reflects an optimally constructive balance between the two.”

The chamber, he said, believed that trade missions and agreements advanced the developmental agenda in eThekwini and Africa through its international business unit members, and businesses have full access to an international network, as well as access to international markets.

Short-term, however, the tourism and hospitality services would be boosted, and the city was ready for international exposure.

“This is an opportunity to showcase what Durban has to offer and we need to put our best foot forward and show the world that Durban is a city for the future. This can result in long-term exposure especially for hospitality, accommodation, restaurants, catering and even retail.

“Hosting special interest events during international events like this can create great publicity and be an incredible advertisement for businesses and the city.

“These international conferences have the potential to create a multiplier effect through areas of employment, accommodation, restaurants and catering right through to entertainment and tourism with the potential of boosting our local economy,” he said.

Phindile Makwakwa, acting head at Tourism KZN, said BRICS was a valuable opportunity to present the province to potential in- vestors and business people.

“It will be a platform for local business to inter- act with their counterparts from the BRICS countries and to forge profitable business linkages.

“Our research shows that delegates of this stature will spend an estimated R6400 per day during their stay and the estimated impact will be in the region of R5.7million for two nights. They will be staying at 4 and 5-star establishments.

“Hosting a global event of this nature increases the profile of our destination globally - not only as a tourism destination but also as a hub for potential investors to do business in.

“As KZN, we already have marketing initiatives which we are conducting in China and India and this is a major booster of those initiatives,” said Makwakwa.

At the other end of the province, Richards Bay also hopes to lure international investors to the region, and presented the facilities at the Industrial Development Zone at a meeting earlier this week.

Pumi Motsoahae, chief executive, emphasised its strategic location alongside the port, as a key attraction for investors.

“Many sites in the industrial zone have already been signed up by international investors, who want to be here.

“We want to show this off at the council meeting, and attract many more manufacturing companies to this area. We are the best placed for this,” said Motsoahae.