Johannesburg: President Jacob Zuma says the leaders of the BRICS countries will use the bloc’s Business Council as a platform to explore new models and approaches towards more equitable development and inclusive growth in the world.
Speaking on Tuesday at the inaugural BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] Business Council meeting, Zuma said the strength of the alliance was amplified by the fact that BRICS countries accounted for 43% of the world’s population.
The council, which was established at the fifth BRICS Summit in March, exists in order to develop and grow business, trade, manufacturing and investment ties among BRICS countries, and BRICS countries and Africa.
The two-day meeting of the council kicked off on Monday, with various captains of industry from all five countries attending Tuesday’s proceedings.
In his address today, Zuma reiterated that there was value in the BRICS partnership. In 2012, total trade within the BRICS grouping amounted to US $6.1 billion, representing 16.8% of global trade.
“Thus, the presence and influence of the BRICS grouping continues to be felt,” Zuma said.
For South Africa, the partnership with BRICS was immense, with total trade between South Africa and the bloc standing at R294 billion — up from the 2011 figure of R264 billion.
Total trade with Brazil grew from R18 billion in 2011 to R20 billion in 2012, while total trade with Russia increased from R3 billion in 2011 to R5 billion in 2012. Total trade with India, which is South Africa’s sixth largest trading partner, grew from R53 billion in 2011 to R67 billion in 2012. Trade with China expanded from R188 billion in 2011 to R201 billion in 2012.
Zuma said there was potential within BRICS, adding that business leaders should take advantage of opportunities present.
He urged business to advance key issues in the BRICS economies, namely infrastructure, mining and mineral beneficiation, manufacturing and energy, among others.
“Within South Africa, there is a host of opportunities as well. We invite participation in six areas, which are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.”
The South African chairperson of the BRICS Business Council and mining magnate, Patrice Motsepe, said the focus was on building partnerships within BRICS countries.
“We need to be proactive,” he told delegates attending the council.
Expanding trade options
MA Zehua, the acting chairperson of the China BRICS Business Council, said there was room to cooperate further with BRICS countries. The chairperson of the India BRICS Business Council, Onkar Kanwar, said the African continent was attracting investment, while also adding that there was a need to add value to export products.
Briefing reporters ahead of the council meeting, South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies on Monday also stressed the importance of value addition to exports.
“We need to add value to our mineral products [and] our agricultural products… We need to promote a much more value-added economy. We need to do this by integrating our continent [Africa]. We need to consolidate this by a massive infrastructure development programme on the continent,” he said on Monday.
On Tuesday, the council also spoke of the need for developing infrastructure on the African continent, a move that will aid economic development.
Zuma echoed the sentiment, saying Africa was ripe with hope and promise.
“Africa is rising and is full of hope and promise. Africa is becoming a remarkable success story, which augurs well for the BRICS partnership,” he said.
Another issue noted by the Business Council — which comprises business leaders from all five countries, who met in a closed meeting on Monday — was that of communication, including the creation of a website that will assist businesses to find each other and information on each other.
Among those who attended the meeting was former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and the chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as well as International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.