Industrialisation to headline BRICS summit

The forthcoming 10th BRICS Summit in South Africa provides an opportunity for southern Africa and the rest of the continent to strengthen ties with some of the emerging economies of the world.

Comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the BRICS group is a fast-growing global economic collaboration.

According to recent studies, the combined economies of BRICS countries could eclipse the combined economies of the 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.

The 10th BRICS Summit is scheduled for 25-27 July in Johannesburg. This is the second time that South Africa has hosted the meeting.

The first time was in 2013 when representatives of the African Union (AU) and various Regional Economic Communities (RECs) were invited to take part in the deliberations.

The BRICS summit comes at an opportune time for the continent, particularly the Southern African Development Community (SADC). South Africa is the current chair of SADC.

South Africa has said it will use its position as incoming BRICS chair to represent the interests of SADC and Africa in order to contribute to sustainable development in the continent

The theme for this year’s summit is “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

The role of industrialization is clearly articulated in the Action Plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa and the United Nations’ Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa covering the period 2016-2025.

The AU Agenda 2063, the strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa, calls for the promotion of sectoral and productivity plans, as well as the development of regional and national commodity value chains to support the implementation of industrial policies at all levels.

The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap is one such plan aligned to Agenda 2063 and aims for the development of a robust industrial sector in southern Africa by the year 2063.

However, for SADC and other African RECs to reap full benefits from their partnership with BRICS countries, there is need for the region and continent to adopt a coordinated approach to seizing the opportunities presented by the collaboration.

The recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), therefore, presents an excellent opportunity for the continent to collectively promote itself as “one big market.”

As individual countries, most African economies are too small to attract meaningful investment. For example, 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.

The population of South Africa is just over 50 million compared to 1.3 billion for China, India (1.2 billion), Brazil (191 million) and Russia (142 million).

Africa can benefit from technological transfer from China and India as the two BRICS countries are far advanced in this area.

This is a critical area if the continent is to realize its full industrialization potential.

In addition to promoting industrialisation, the summit is expected to discuss the strengthening of the BRICS role in global affairs, considering that the grouping is a fast-growing global economic collaboration.

In this regard, some of the issues on the agenda include the proposed creation of a BRICS working group on peace-keeping as well as the establishment of a gender and women’s forum involving the five countries.

In addition, there are plans to set up a research centre to deal with development of vaccines for human and animal diseases as well as the establishment of a mechanism to strengthen cooperation in the area of tourism.

The summit will likely discuss ways on how to increase intra-BRICS trade and how the Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank (NDB), which was launched in South Africa last year, can facilitate and promote infrastructure development Africa.

SADC has identified infrastructure a top priority in its regional integration agenda.

The NDB, formerly known as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS countries.

The Africa Regional Centre of the NDB will exclusively cater for the developmental needs of the African continent.

According to the Fortaleza Declaration signed at the 6th BRICS Summit, “the bank shall have an initial authorized capital of US$100 billion.” The initial subscribed capital was US$50 billion, equally shared among founding members.

The last BRICS Summit was held in September 2017 in China under the theme: “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”

According to the Xiamen Declaration issued at the last summit, the BRICS countries reaffirmed commitment to strengthen cooperation with Africa and help the continent to address challenges such as illegal wildlife trade, unemployment, and poor infrastructure.

This will be achieved through strong support for the implementation of various AU targets under Agenda 2063 in pursuit of the continental agenda for peace and socio-economic development.