BRICS reaching out to Africa

Image: Wikimedia

By: Thandisizwe Mgudlwa – AfricanBrains

Just when some thought that South Africa’s inclusion in the BRIC bloc had nothing to show.  Think again.

Since SA’s official joining of the fastest growing economies of the world which are Brazil, Russia, India and China, now called BRICS, on April last year, not much appeared to have happened. Not at least for the masses in SA and in the rest of Africa.

But now there’s new movement it seems. The BRICS Africa Export Import Forum is expected to do the trick.

With SA’s status as a regional logistics and infrastructure powerhouse making it the only viable gateway for trade into the rest of Africa, the country could stand to create new opportunities for counterparts on the continent.

This strategic advantage also gives the country a valuable and unique role as a member of BRICS.

But the question is: will African countries come to the party?

On the other hand, BRICS member nations will form the backbone of the inaugural BRICS Africa Export Import Forum, an event designed to keep importers and exporters abreast of the constantly changing dynamics of international trade.

“The Forum will provide a solid knowledge base to help facilitate partnerships and trade opportunities between BRICS nations and countries across the African continent,” says John Thomson, Managing Director of Exhibition Management Services, co-organisers of the event. The three-day Forum is designed to maximise multilateral trade activity, and includes a programme of Intra-BRIC trade opportunity presentations, as well as a series of educational workshops.

“The Forum takes place alongside two major shows Africa’s Big Seven Food and Beverage trade exhibition and the Southern African International Trade Exhibition,” adds Thomson. “With close on 800 exhibitors at these shows, the Forum delegates will have access to participants from more than 50 countries – and limitless trade opportunities.” All the events take place from 15 to 17 July at Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand.

“With a sound financial sector, a well-developed infrastructure and a history of independent decision-making, South Africa offers BRIC nations easy access to a consumer population in Africa of one billion people, and provides a sound base for future expansion into the continent,” adds Thomson. The country is also a leader in mineral and industrial output, electricity generation and sophisticated service industries. “Africais the world’s third-fastest growing market – and BRIC countries are actively seeking access to African markets to fuel their rise by buying primary resources and exporting manufactured goods,” he continues. “The BRIC nations see South Africa as the preferred entry point into the rest of the continent.”

Thomson points out that South Africa is thinking BRICS; expanding flight connections and marketing tourism to BRICS countries. “We are even tailoring investment opportunities and terms to meet the needs of our new strategic partners.”

 Meanwhile, India has welcomed Forum Participation and in an issued a statement says: “India attaches considerable importance to BRICS and welcomes South Africa’s entry into this organisation of emerging economies,” says Virendra Gupta,India’s High Commissioner. “The BRICS Africa Export Import Forum naturally provides us with a useful opportunity to meet with South African companies and business entities.”

India will be participating in a special trade symposium on BRICS and Africa – as will all the other BRICS members –Russia,

India and China.

Gupta confirms that the trade ties between India and South Africa have witnessed “rapid acceleration” during the past few years. “Bilateral trade has already crossed the figure of US$ 11 billion in 2010-11 and we are now working on the target of  US$15 billion by 2014 which has been set by the Trade Ministers of the two countries,’ he adds.  “Investment flows both ways have also been equally robust, having already crossed the mark of US$10 billion.”

Gupta concludes thatIndiafollows a long-term approach in their dealings with Africa and aims to consolidate and build upon their historic ties with countries in the continent.  “Our focus accordingly has been on building partnerships through requisite contribution to capacity building and human resource development.”

The challenge will be on whether or not African countries, from now until the commencement of the forum, can work together to ensure each other’s successes and advancement; and not allow past divisions to stand in the way.

If that unity and co-operation can not materialize in the new few months, then another golden opportunity for the continent’s development would have been lost.