Leaders of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa business communities (Brics) at a meeting in Los Cabos in Mexico, last year. They are, from left to right, President Dilma Rousseff of Brasil, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, former president Hu Jintao of China and President Jacob Zuma.

Peter Fabricius

Foreign Editor

CHINESE President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to make state visits while they are in the country for the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa business communities (Brics) summit next month.

The other leaders of Brics, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, will also attend the summit in Durban on March 27, which President Jacob Zuma will host and chair.

The summit will focus on global issues and joint projects among the five members states, such as a proposed development bank and trading among the members in their own currency rather than the dollar.

Xi will arrive earlier and Putin will stay a longer to add state visits to their itineraries, which will in each case focus on each country’s relations with South Africa.

South Africa was admitted to the increasingly influential bloc late in 2010 and the government regards the summit as the highpoint of its foreign affairs calendar this year.

Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will host her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Pretoria today to discuss Putin’s visit, the summit and other aspects of relations between the two countries.

Nkoana-Mashabane’s office said she and Lavrov would also discuss critical regional and international issues such as Africa’s development plan, Nepad; the agenda of the G8, of which Russia is a member; and the G20, of which both countries are members; as well as the state of global governance reform. A key issue is Africa’s demand that the UN security council be expanded to add more permanent seats, including two for Africa.

South Africa has made it clear it would like one of those, but has also said it would defer to the AU’s decision on which countries should occupy the seats, if they become available.

As one of the five permanent members on the security council, Russia’s role in the reform moves is critical.

It has signed general Brics statements supporting permanent representation for Africa on the council, but has not stated explicitly that it backs additional permanent seats.