OPINION

BRICS partnership has great value for South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa |

20 June 2022

Cyril Ramaphosa writes summit is an opportunity to contribute to a better world where countries can recover from Covid-19

BRICS partnership has great value for South Africa

20 June 2022

Dear Fellow South African

Later this week, I will join the leaders of China, Brazil, Russia and India at the 14th BRICS Leaders’ Summit, which will be hosted virtually by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The value of South Africa’s membership of BRICS has grown substantially since we joined this group of emerging economies 12 years ago. As we work to rebuild our country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to be gained from our participation in BRICS and the relationships we have established with other member countries.

At the outset, BRICS countries identified the strengthening of economic and financial ties as one of the key pillars of its cooperation. The countries have adopted the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership to increase access to each other’s markets, promote mutual trade and investment and create a business-friendly environment for investors in all BRICS countries. An important part of this strategy, particularly for South Africa, is to diversify trade so that more manufactured goods, rather than raw commodities, are traded.

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Last year, over 17% of South Africa’s exports were destined for other BRICS countries, while over 29% of our total imports came from these countries. These countries are therefore significant trading partners, and the value of this trade is continuing to grow. Total South African trade with other BRICS countries reached R702 billion in 2021 up from R487 billion in 2017.

At a time when we are focused on improving the capacity and competitiveness of our economy, these trade linkages will prove vital to the growth of local industry. There is therefore a direct relationship between, on the one hand, our reforms in energy, telecommunications and transport, our investment in infrastructure and our efforts to reduce red tape, and, on the other hand, the work underway to increase exports to our BRICS partners. These reforms are also important for encouraging greater investment from BRICS countries into our economy.

One area with great potential is tourism, which has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourists from other BRICS countries accounted for 65% of all arrivals in South Africa in 2018, and these markets will therefore be expected to make an important contribution to the recovery of this sector. It is therefore significant that visitors from India and China can now make use of our new eVisa programme to make it easier and less costly to visit our country.

As we mobilise financing from different sources to fund our ambitious infrastructure build programme, we expect the New Development Bank – also known as the BRICS Bank – to play an important role in providing financial and project preparation support for infrastructure and sustainable development projects. South Africa has already received $5.4 billion, currently worth around R86 billion, from the New Development Bank to improve service delivery in critical areas. The Bank also demonstrated its flexibility in rapidly approving $2 billion for each BRICS member under the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Programme to fund the fight against the pandemic and to support our economic recovery.