Brics membership boosts SA's global standing
Cape Town - For a young adult, South Africa has definitely left its mark in the world. In December 2010, the then 16-year-old country was invited to join the Bric bloc, resulting in Brics. And as the country approaches its 20th birthday, it has shown that it is a powerhouse in the making.
The country’s hosting of the Fifth Brics summit in Durban earlier this year, has raised the country’s standing as an influential global leader and lifted its profile as an important investment and travel destination.
Economic growth may be slowing in the Brics, but South Africa’s membership to the bloc is likely to continue to provide the country with new market opportunities, while providing it with a platform with which to push for the reform of global governance structures such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
While a host of Brics companies already operate in South Africa, a number of Brics investors recently indicated their interest in investing in the country.
Last year South Africa’s share of trade with Brics countries stood at 18 percent, up from 10 percent in 2005, while the country’s trade with fellow Brics countries increased by 12 percent last year over 2011, against declines in trade with the country’s traditional markets of Japan, the European Union and the United States.
The country also signed a range of trade and investment agreements at the Fifth Brics summit in Durban in March, which will likely see a number of Brics companies set up in South Africa.
At the Durban summit, trade and industry ministers from Brics member states also agreed to boost complementary trade in value-added products among member countries.
In April, the Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, revealed that his department was looking at ways to boost South Africa’s manufactured exports to its Brics partner countries, and is coordinating a joint research study on how to boost value-added trade amongst the bloc’s member countries.
The aim is to more than double intra-Brics trade by 2015 – from the current $230 billion to $500 billion.
The number of tourist arrivals from Brics countries is also significantly up since the country joined the bloc.
SA Tourism chief executive Thulani Nzima said though South Africa had until it joined the bloc enjoyed steady tourist growth out of China and India, arrivals from these two nations have since 2011 began showing “phenomenal growth”, while arrivals from Russia and Brazil have started showing encouraging growth, albeit off of smaller base numbers.
Last year, tourism arrivals from China and India grew 56 percent and 18 percent respectively over 2011, while those of Brazil and Russia were up 45 percent and 27 percent respectively.
Nzima believes the 2010 World Cup and South Africa’s membership status solidified already outstanding co-operative economic and diplomatic relationships between this country and its Brics partners, paving the way for even more energetic destination marketing for Brics countries.
“The formal Brics relationship has done much to ensure growth way-above-average arrivals growth from the Brics nations,” commented Nzima.
He said joining Brics has also given SA Tourism access to market decision-makers, trade and consumers that has enabled the agency to consolidate campaign efforts and maintain growth in tourism arrivals.
This year, South African Tourism will open its first destination marketing office in Brazil.
Yet, when South Africa joined the Brics bloc, there was concern from many that the country’s smaller economy and population to that of Brazil, Russia, India and China did not make it suitable to be part of the prestigious group.
South Africa has, however, argued otherwise.
In May, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Deputy Director-General of Trade and Investment South Africa (Tisa) Pumla Ncapayi told investors in Japan, during a state visit by President Jacob Zuma, that South Africa is not a member of Brics because of the size of its population but by virtue of what the country can offer in the way of meaningful discussions and participation.
Most importantly the country, with developed services and financial sectors, represents a gateway to Africa for many potential investors.
It also offers a chance for Brics countries to work more closely in developing the continent, with President Jacob Zuma pointing out in May to delegates at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, that the country’s Brics membership represented an important turning point for Africa’s connectivity to the rest of the world.
The Brics have strong cultural and historical ties to Africa and at the Durban summit Brics leaders pledged their support to increasing co-operation with Africa and boosting investments in the continent.
Speaking at the summit, Zuma said the Brics process could play an important role in helping to bring infrastructure and industrial projects to bankability by providing technical expertise and funding for project preparation.
Also at the summit, finance ministers of the bloc’s respective member countries formally agreed to set up a Brics Development Bank.
The finance ministers are now working on technical details around the setting up of the bank.
The summit also saw the launch of the Brics Business Council which Zuma said would help serve as a platform to promote trade and economic relations between the member nations and foster closer ties between the private sectors of each respective member country.
Miller Matola chief executive of Brand SA believes that through its membership to Brics South Africa would also be able to gain valuable lessons and take advantage of technological transfers, innovations and programmes to tackle unemployment, poverty and inequality.
The country’s membership to the Brics club will also help it to benchmark itself against policies and programmes of its peer nations, while being able to co-operate in various areas with these countries.
Earlier this year the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said her department was looking to have sectorial meetings, taking advantage of the declarations made at the Fifth Brics Summit.
South Africa was also looking at more ways of involving civil society, labour unions and MPs in Brics sectorial meetings.
In March, the Human Sciences and Research Council (HSRC) was appointed as the incubator of the Brics Think Tank.
The idea is that the Think Tank will link with academics and policymakers to help conduct evidenced-based policy analysis aimed at informing the long term strategy of Brics.
Narnia Bohler-Muller, the HSRC’s deputy executive director of democracy, governance and service Delivery, said the HSRC is currently incubating the Think Tank and a decision on whether or not to set up a permanent South Africa Think Tank will be taken by the government based on criteria still to be developed.
Bohler-Muller added that the HSRC Think Tank will also work closely with the Brics Business Council in order to identify research areas important to advancing the Brics agenda as well as national interests.
She said the HSRC has organised a Brics internal seminar series in which five seminars, open to the public and media, will be hosted on Brics -related topics over the course of the next six months.
The HSRC is planning a launch of this book in October on the Brics and in the next two months there will also be seminars on Brics and industrialisation and the Brics development bank.
In October, South Africa will host the 3rd Brics Co-operatives Summit in Durban where delegates are expected to discuss the latest trade and economic policies on co-operatives. – SAnews.gov.za
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