On 30 March, the BRICS Economic Indaba was held in an online format. There were more than 17 speakers who discussed the South African priorities for 2023 in agribusiness, digital economy, financial services infrastructure, green economy, manufacturing and trade.
The event seeks to galvanise the support of South African businesses behind the programme of the SA BRICS business Council, as well as to provide business with a broad understanding of the multitude of platforms and projects that they may be able to participate in during this Chairship.
Busi Mabuza, chairman of the SABBC, who currently serves as the Board chairperson of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of South Africa, made a welcoming speech. The IDC is the largest development finance institution in sub-Saharan Africa.
The programme of the economic indaba was divided into 4 sessions: messages of welcome; BRICS trade and investment, 2023 roadmap and Partner programmes.
Anil Sooklal, the Ambassador-at-Large: Asia and BRICS at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), and South Africa’s BRICS Sherpa, highlighted the fact that one of the most important areas it is necessary to focus on is the balance between the government and the private sector. He believes, these two sectors should move in tandem.
“I think we need to have a dedicated approach, a strategy between government and business on how we deal with the BRICS. We need to have a serious discussion as government and private sector in terms of having a common approach in terms of looking at the tremendous opportunities that exist between the BRICS countries for the benefit of South Africa and the African countries at large. BRICS now account for 31,5% of global GDP. So, its remarkable growth on the global economic front is something that is a great opportunity for SA and the African continent,” Sooklal said.
According to John Rocha, the Chief Director of Trade Invest Africa at the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the successful implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can lead to the diversification of exports, acceleration of growth, increased investment, increased entrepreneurial opportunities, increased employment opportunities and incomes and broadening economic inclusion.
Monale Ratsoma, presently Director General of New Development Bank (NDB), African Regional Office since April 2018, shared the plans of the New Development Bank in the near future. He stressed: “The BRICS NDB will prioritise projects that entail deployment of clean and renewable energy, support projects that facilitate universal access to clean drinking water and sanitation, support building and modernisation of social infrastructure and finance for projects that entail the expansion and modernisation of digital infrastructure.”
Lerato Mataboge, the Deputy Director-General, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition: Republic of South Africa (the DTIC), said that the BRICS grouping stands on three pillars: economic cooperation, trade and industry.
She identified broad priority areas for 2023: “It’s necessary to promote value-added trade, intra-BRICS investments through BBC (BRICS Business Council), promote exchange of views on utilisation of IPR for development, develop a BRICS narrative or inclusive multilateralism for sustainable development.”
She also suggested strategies matters to be finalised by May 2023: to revive the Trade Promotion Working Group, finalise the Format and Content of BRICS Business Forum and to finalise SA content of BRICS Business Council Report input.
The indaba is one of a series of activities that will be rolled out as part of the business programme. These activities will include meetings of the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution and BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade issues (CGETI), inward buying and investment missions, manufacturing forum, investment exhibitions that will showcase SA’s capabilities and available investment opportunities, and the BRICS Business Forum.
South Africa became a member of BRICS in 2010 and attended its first Summit in 2011. BRICS was established as a forum of like-minded, progressive emerging market and developing countries. These were brought together by their commitent to the need to restructure the global political, economic and financial architecture to be more equitable, balanced and resting on the important pillars of multilateralism and international law.