BRICS can aid in peace and stability in Africa

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pretoria- BRICS countries can help in the establishment of stability and peace as well as economic development on the African continent, says Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande.

Speaking at a Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) academic forum banquet dinner at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) on Monday, Nzimande said although South Africa was the most developed country on the continent, its future wellbeing was tied to that of the African continent.

“Our own future is tied to the economic development of Africa as a whole and to the establishment of stability and peace throughout the continent. We believe that the other BRICS countries can play an important role in achieving these goals and that they (and the rest of the world), in turn, will benefit from the process,” said the minister.

BRICS - which South Africa officially became a member of on 24 December 2010, after being formally invited by the BRIC countries to join the group - could cooperate in academic cooperation.

“One of the most important elements of BRICS cooperation should be in the sphere of knowledge production and academic cooperation. To achieve our goals- both in Africa and the world- we need constantly to strengthen our scientific and technical knowledge in all spheres, to deepen our understanding of our societies and those of the rest of the world,” he said.

Durban will host the fifth BRICS Summit, at which member countries will launch the business council from 26 - 27 March with the aim of hosting the conference being to harness the country’s membership to benefit the entire continent.

South Africa’s position going into the summit is to align BRICS member countries' interests in supporting the integration agenda in Africa, and not just focusing on access to the country’s resources.

The minister said integration of African economies is at an early stage. Although communications infrastructure was improving, though it still has a long way to go.

Nzimande said it was not possible to travel between many neighbouring countries by train and railway infrastructure was mainly geared to getting raw materials to the coast for export but not for moving goods and people around or within the continent.

“Roads, especially major arterial roads, are in need of serious upgrading. Despite a large expansion of air travel routes in Africa, it is still often easier to fly from one African country to another via Europe rather than directly. Industry, in general, is still weak – especially outside of the raw material, extractive industries,” he explained.

A supportive international environment is important to the African continent, he said at the dinner that forms part of the Academic Forum hosted by the Department as well as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Higher Education South Africa (HESA) and DUT.

“It’s not by accident that Africa’s emergence from the morass of stagnation associated with the period of imposed structural adjustment programmes from the mid-70s to the mid-90s has coincided with the emergence of the large BRICS countries as economic giants.

“These countries have given African nations the ability to start to escape the clutches of neo-colonial dependence on foreign aid, and the policies and ‘advice’ of Western-controlled finance institutions.”

The Fifth BRICS Academic Forum will conclude tomorrow. -