Monday, March 25, 2013

Africa Has a Lot to Gain From BRICS

Africa has a lot to gain from BRICS

Monday, 25 March 2013 00:00
Kizito Sikuka
Zimbabwe Herald

The invitation to Africa to participate in the forthcoming 5th BRICS Summit in South Africa is evidence of the growing interest the continent is attracting from developed and emerging economies as a new frontier for business and investment.

For the first time since formal meetings began in 2009, the BRICS group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa has invited the rest of Africa to take part in its deliberations.

The theme for the summit set for March 26-27 in Durban is “BRICS and Africa — Partnerships for Integration and Industrialisation”, and is aimed at unlocking potential for co-operation between the BRICS countries and Africa.

According to recent studies, the combined economies of BRICS could eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries of the world by the year 2050, hence the need for Africa to take advantage of its close ties with BRICS to strengthen socio-economic development on the continent.

“Deepened co-operation between BRICS countries and Africa offers enormous potential for both,” South African trade and industry minister Rob Davies said ahead of the summit.

“This opportunity should be seized,” he said, adding that Africa, “with its much improved development prospects, abundant natural resources, growing consumer power and favourable demographics,” had a lot to gain from the partnership.

BRICS countries are already deeply involved in Africa’s economic transformation and their presence is growing significantly.

For example, trade between Africa and China has increased dramatically over the past decade, from about US$10 billion in 2000 to more than US$160 billion in 2011.

The new Chinese President, Xi Jinping, will attend the BRICS summit as part of his first visit to Africa that also includes a visit to Tanzania.

India and Africa have also recorded considerable achievements in promoting the development of small-to-medium enterprises – key players in most economies in Africa.

Brazil and Russia are heavily involved in energy and mining development in Africa through public and private sector, and this too is expanding.

However, Africa could reap greater benefits from the partnership with the BRICS countries if the continent presents a more coordinated approach to seizing these numerous opportunities, as most initiatives remain bilateral.

One approach is to jointly promote the continent as “one big market.”

South Africa has already said it is ready to represent the interests of Africa, and use its unique position to contribute to African economic growth and investment.

On its own, South Africa has an economy of about US$290 billion, which is less than a quarter of that of Russia, the second smallest economy of the BRICS nations.

South Africa’s population is just over 50 million compared to China’s 1.3 billion, India’s 1.2 billion, Brazil’s 191 million, and Russia’s 142 million.

In this regard, South Africa as a country is small, but the regional market is much bigger as the population of the African continent now exceeds one billion.

With South Africa becoming the next chair of BRICS as host nation of the summit, Africa can take advantage of its leadership to promote investment and development for the continent.

According to the host nation, African representation at the summit will include among others the African Union, AU Commission, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and eight Heads of State and Government from the eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa, as well as other relevant regional and international representatives.

Among the key issues on the agenda are the launch and establishment of a BRICS-led development bank, a BRICS think-tank, and the creation of a BRICS business council.
The BRICS summit is held each year and hosting rotates among member states. The previous summit was held in India in 2012.

The BRICS mechanism aims to achieve peace, security, development and cooperation. It also seeks to contribute significantly to the development of humanity and establish a more equitable and fair world.


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