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Strategic Partner
South Africa continues to cooperate with BRICS members to enhance economic engagement and development
By Dolana Msimang | VOL. 8 October 2016
Dolana Msimang, South African Ambassador to China

Since South Africa became part of the BRICS group in 2010, BRICS has developed strategic cooperation mechanisms on numerous issues, some of which have been implemented already while others are part of on-going discussions during BRICS meetings. The BRICS flagship initiative is the New Development Bank (NDB) which was operationalized on July 21, 2015 with its headquarters in Shanghai.

It is very significant to note that this proposal was only endorsed by the leaders at the Fifth BRICS Summit in 2013 hosted by South Africa. In just over two years, the NDB had functional offices.

In April 2016, the NDB announced its first set of approved loans involving financial assistance of $811 million, to be disbursed in tranches, supporting 2,370 MW of renewable energy capacity. South Africa already benefitted with a loan of $180 million in assistance for renewable energy projects to the South African power utility Eskom.

The NDB African Regional Center (ARC) of BRICS in South Africa is expected to be operational soon. Minister Nkoana-Mashabane recently met with the President of the NDB, K.V. Kamath, in Shanghai as a special envoy of President Zuma to deliberate on final preparations.

The ARC is expected to carry out strategic projects for both South Africa and the African continent. It will initially be responsible for project identification and preparation, but will also, in consultation with BRICS partners, respond to the infrastructure cooperation proposals received from the African leadership when they met the BRICS leadership in 2013.

The ARC will be a vehicle through which the African continent will benefit from funding of its infrastructure projects. The medium term vision for the ARC is that it will become a continental center of excellence specializing in capacity building and technical assistance.

The BRICS group is cooperating in a multitude of fields, which has enhanced BRICS intra-trade as well security and social areas especially in the sectors of health, population matters and education.

BRICS countries have frequent exchanges on issues related to the United Nations (UN) as well as in the context of other multilateral forums. A recent example is the BRICS Leaders' Informal Meeting on the Margins of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou.

BRICS is an important group where issues affecting the developing world, or Global South, can be discussed. We are particularly interested in the comprehensive reform of global economic and financial architectures. This is a focus area for BRICS Finance Ministers who meet on the margins of the annual and other meetings of the Bretton Woods Institutions.

BRICS ministers of foreign affairs/international relations hold an annual meeting on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly to exchange views on pertinent issues of mutual interest. One such issue for example is the position for the UN Secretary General. BRICS has two permanent members of the UN Security Council of the current five and for South Africa it would be important that the elected candidate will promote the African Union's continental agenda.

The core of the BRICS agenda is to enhance intra-cooperation amongst its members. In BRICS, there is increased synergy on major positions and this is reflected in the leaders' summit declaration. This is supported by an action plan with clear deliverables, the implementation of which is monitored by each summit chair which is required to publish the outcome documents following all sectoral meetings.

South Africa actively participates in all the working groups agreed to at BRICS Summits with the aim of strengthening and enhancing all BRICS structures. We have contributed to creating, notably, the BRICS Business Council and BRICS Think Tanks Council, both summit deliverables in 2013.

We believe that by working together to strengthen the BRICS partnership, we can support domestic socio-economic priorities delivering tangible outcomes for the more than 3 billion people living in BRICS countries.

The theme of the upcoming BRICS Summit in India talks directly to our goals with the summit theme that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed, being "Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions." This encompasses our spirit of collaboration aimed at contributing to global solutions for global challenges, especially in addressing the effects of the global economic crisis on sustainable growth paths.

South Africa will continue to partner with BRICS members to enhance economic engagement and cooperation specifically in respect of the implementation of the Strategy for Economic Partnership adopted by the Summit in 2015.

BRICS countries agreed that each champion specific areas of the strategy. South Africa will lead on two important sectors, namely industrialization and minerals processing as well as science, technology and innovation.

South Africa is very excited about the proposed high-level deliverables to be announced by India, especially from a continental perspective.

The upcoming summit will also exchange views on multiple global issues of common interest and concern. We will also review the operations of the NDB in support of its various activities, including high-level appointments.

(The author is South African Ambassador to China)

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