THE BRICS Business Council conference, which concluded in Durban yesterday, was a major boost for businesses in the province and the country, KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala said.
“The issues discussed are interesting because you can see the joint efforts of the countries that make up BRICS. There are issues and proposals we need to follow up on as some now want to establish businesses.”
Zikalala said the proposal of a youth summit being aligned to the broader BRICS summit was a fascinating development for the continent.
It is estimated that by 2050, Africa will be home to 1.25billion people under the age of 25. The continent's youth population will be 10 times that of Europe. “The youth summit and the issues proposed for follow-ups are crucial. It is important that young people are considered for employment but also are considered for business ownership.”
Zikalala said the BRICS New Development Bank was already making an impact with investment in some projects.
The three major focus areas identified for the South Africa BRICS Business Council was Youth - Fostering Entrepreneurship; the Digital Economy - Skills Development for the 4th Industrial Revolution and Agriculture and Food Security.
The meeting was attended by over 400 representatives from the business communities of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, as well as representatives from strategic partners such as the New Development Bank.
During its deliberations, the BRICS Business Council recognised the achievements and progress the Council had made over the past year and analysed the opportunities and challenges facing emerging economies.
The five BRICS countries reinforced their ongoing commitment and agreed on the importance of ensuring greater economic, trade and investment ties.
The annual meeting was presided over by Dr Iqbal Survé, BRICS Business Council chairman and founder and chairman of Sekunjalo Group.
Dr Survé stressed the importance of the New Development Bank, saying the loans the bank has granted exceeded the pace of other multinational banking institutions.
“Our countries and institutions are fiscally strained. We need all the support that we can get.”
The Business Council wants the bank to deepen co-operation and support of private sector projects.
“What we find in South Africa is that SOEs are undergoing serious changes and have serious constraints. While this transition happens they might not be able to easily take on the kind of debt that banks provide. In most of our countries we have a fairly well developed private sector and the NDB needs to make it easier to deal with and lend to these institutions.”
Dr Survé said one of the themes for the conference - the fourth industrial revolution - would have an enormous impact on business. He called on the New Development Bank to support technology companies or businesses involved in technology. “BRICS should have a unit focused on researching this and how to fund technology. We have the e-commerce platform championed by China. The bank should look at how it is able to fast-track BRICS countries to have technology transfer.
“We talk of the internet of things - the ability to optimise the manufacturing process. There is a huge opportunity for the bank to carve itself out a niche. This is crucial as some capital markets, particularly in the US, can fund these kinds of tech projects at costs BRICS countries cannot compete with.”
Waseem Carrim, chief executive of the National Youth Development Agency, said technology was reshaping the world, connecting people across borders and across nations.
“Even as technology brings us closer together we see the widening gap between rich and poor. How can we make sure that in this rapidly changing world no one is left behind? The business council sees youth entrepreneurship as a critical matter for development.”
Carrim said businesses that start off small can grow into very successful companies and change the way people work and connect.