The planned BRICS development bank will be crucial to fuel development, trade and investment among BRICS and other developing countries, Business Unity South Africa president Jabu Mabuza told the BRICS Business Forum at Durban’s International Convention Centre on Tuesday.
Addressing nearly 1 000 businesspeople from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) group of influential emerging countries, Mabuza singled out limited access to markets as the challenge facing the grouping.
“There remains a number of barriers to investment within BRICS countries, mostly in the finance and retail industries. While we appreciate reforms to open up opportunities for foreign direct investment, we believe there is more that can be done.”
Black Business Council president Ndaba Ntsele told the gathering that companies in the BRICS countries were now “taking their place as players and leaders in the global economic space.
“The new workforce, young and more skilled, is going to come from the developing world,” Ntsele said, adding that India alone produced more than 2.5-million maths and science graduates every year.
The BRICS countries needed to know what they were good at and put this into practice for the benefit of their citizens, Ntsele said. Brazil, for instance, was the fastest growing economy in Latin America, with a thriving agricultural sector and growing renewable fuels industry. Russia was a leader in aerospace industries, energy and rail, while information technology was India’s strength.
Ntsele said South Africa’s BRICS membership since 2010 had sealed the country’s position as the continent’s diplomatic and economic leader.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize echoed Ntsele, citing an Ernst & Young survey of 500 leading investors from three countries which showed an overwhelming preference for South Africa as an investment destination, with 41 percent of respondents seeing the country as the first choice on the continent.
“South Africa, therefore, has a role in BRICS, and that is none other than it being the gateway into the rest of the African continent, because of its relative level of development and its institutions at various levels.”
For Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom, technology transfer among BRICS countries would be crucial for the success of the bloc.
“There is a big opportunity not only for business but for making a great social impact as well,” Hanekom told the Forum. “Between our partner countries, there is an opportunity to position our ideas on making partnerships in renewable energy a reality.”
Hanekom called on the delegates attending the two-day summit in Durban to “seriously migrate” from coal-generated energy and consider searching for clean and renewable energy sources.
The fifth BRICS summit will be officially opened on Wednesday when South African President Jacob Zuma and his BRIC counterparts meet for formal discussions.