MADE FOR AFRICA: Visitors check out a car at a Chinese auto exhibition in Johannesburg on November 24, 2010 (LI QIHUA)
At their third summit, leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC group of major emerging economies, welcomed a new member, South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma led a high-level delegation, including South Africa's international relations and cooperation minister, economic development minister and trade and industry minister, to attend the summit on April 14 in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province.
In December 2010, China, which held the rotating BRIC presidency, invited South Africa to join the mechanism, turning BRIC into BRICS. South Africa, the largest economy in Africa, is widely believed to represent the African continent in the group.
"After South Africa joined, the cooperation mechanism has expanded its representation to cover the four continents of Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa," said Zhang Zhongxiang, Deputy Director of the Department of West Asian and African Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. "This also provides good opportunities for African development."
Zhang said South Africa's entry would exert a positive influence on the future development of BRICS through facilitating other BRICS members to launch cooperation with African countries. "Because of its great influence in Africa, especially in the southern part, South Africa is regarded as a representative of Africa. It is a bridge leading the rest of the world to Africa," said Zhang.
"South Africa has advantages in economic management, natural resource reserves and good relations with many countries and regions," said Yu Ping, Vice Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Although, compared with other BRICS countries, South Africa has a much smaller economy, population and territory, the country has great potential in its future development, Yu said.
Figures highlight the importance of Africa to the other BRICS countries. Though foreign direct investment to African countries dropped by 30 percent in 2008-09 because of the grave global financial crisis, statistics from the China's Ministry of Commerce showed China's investment to the continent rocketed by 80 percent.
An official report from Brazil last year revealed the country's investment in Africa had exceeded $10 billion since 2003. Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma predicted on March 28 his country's trade volume with African countries would rise to $75 billion in 2015 from the current $45 billion.
The BRICS mechanism will contribute to South Africa's development. In his speech to the country's parliament on March 17, Zuma described BRICS as "an important grouping to be part of, given the role of emerging economies in advancing the restructuring of the global political, economic and financial architecture into one that is more equitable, balanced and which rests on the important pillar of multilateralism."
"Joining BRICS will bring more development opportunities to South Africa," Tshepo Nkosi, a communications executive with the International Marketing Council of South Africa, told Beijing Review. By taking up these opportunities, South Africa could further improve its international competitiveness because the mechanism will make it easier for other countries to invest in South Africa. "We can also expand our foreign trade volume," he said.
In an interview with Xinhua News Agency, Jerry Vilakazi, CEO of Business Unity South Africa, a business advocacy group, said the BRICS summit in Sanya "comes at the right time for South Africa."
He said he hoped the summit would attract the other four countries to invest in South Africa in areas such as mining, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and energy.