By Michael Currin
It is Women’s Month and Government is delighted to be hosting an important group of leading emerging markets and developing countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa for the 15th edition of the BRICS Summit. Together BRICS has around 42% of the world's population, 27% of global GDP and around 20% of international trade.
It is our third time hosting this important event as a country and South Africa is privileged to be the chair of BRICS this year.
Our theme is "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism." This theme reflects our vision of BRICS providing global leadership in addressing the needs and concerns of the majority of the world, namely beneficial economic growth, sustainable development and inclusion of the global South in multilateral systems.
This theme also reflects our belief in the benefits a partnership with Africa can bring to BRICS, with our partners eager to explore opportunities to support, and benefit from, operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Since January 2023, we have held a large number of meetings across all three pillars of cooperation, namely:
1. Political and security,
2. Economic and financial; and
3. Social and people-to-people cooperation.
GCIS has supported various Ministerial meetings held to precede BRICS across all provinces. Our Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni hosted a Friends of BRICS National Security Advisors Meeting with her BRICS Security counterparts, in Sandton, on 24 July 2023.
The Friends of BRICS is a combination of countries who have expressed an interest in joining BRICS, those who chair prominent institutions of the Global South and those invited as per the Chair’s prerogative and henceforth invited as per the consensus reached between the host and fellow BRICS members. The Friends of BRICS countries who attended this meeting are Belarus, Burundi, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Various other meetings took place headed by various Ministers such as the BRICS Foreign Ministers, the BRICS Civil Forum, BRICS Ministers of Communication, the BRICS Youth Forum, the BRICS Urbanisation, BRICS Ministers of Health, and BRICS Ministers of Science and Innovation have all concluded their meetings.
Cabinet has encouraged BRICS meetings to be held in different towns and cities so that our guests have a wide range of experience of our beautiful country. It is also important that the tangible economic benefits of hosting our BRICS partners are experienced in a variety of communities.
All these activities build up to the XVth BRICS Summit which will provide an opportunity for BRICS Leaders to reflect on all the elements of BRICS cooperation. The XVth BRICS Summit will also provide an opportunity to amplify the voices of our friends in Africa and the global South with the BRICS-Africa Outreach and BRICS Plus Dialogues.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed South Africa’s readiness to host the XVth BRICS Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg and we are running a countdown to hype the upcoming activities of the Summit. South Africa Chairs BRICS in a dynamic global environment where the eyes of the world are on us.
Leading up to the Summit, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the BRICS Business Council will be hosting a content-rich BRICS Business Programme from 19 to 23 August which seeks to foster economic growth, promote collaboration, attract investment, and showcase opportunities within South Africa, Africa and BRICS countries.
All the BRICS Business Councils are bringing large business delegations to South Africa. As an outcome of South Africa's Chairing of BRICS in 2013, the BRICS Business Council celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2023 and we look forward to the celebrations as well as the outcomes of the review of the work of the Council in its first ten years.
The BRICS Summit programme
The first event on the BRICS Leaders' programme is the BRICS Business Forum Leaders Dialogue on the afternoon of Tuesday 22 August. The Leaders will get a report on the outcomes of the deliberations during the BRICS Business Forum and will deliver statements reflecting on BRICS economic relations.
Following the Business Forum, the Leaders move to a quieter venue for the BRICS Leaders Retreat. This is a signature event of South Africa as BRICS Chair. Leaders meet in a comfortable setting in a private venue for an unscripted discussion of contemporary issues of importance. There is no set agenda and Leaders can initiate a discussion on issues of choice such as BRICS membership expansion, reform of global governance, or use of local currencies.
On 23 August, the XVth BRICS Summit continues with a closed plenary followed by an open plenary session.
The BRICS Leaders will deliver national statements which will be followed by reports by the President of the New Development Bank, the South African Chair of the BRICS Business Council and the South African Chair of the BRICS Women's Business Alliance.
It is befitting during Women’s month to re-emphasise my focus on the BRICS Women's Business (WBA) Alliance. This will be the first in-person engagement with BRICS Leaders as it was established in 2020 under the Chairship of Russia during the height of the pandemic. This Alliance aims to empower and advance women entrepreneurs in BRICS to create a vibrant network in partnership with others that facilitates knowledge-sharing, skills development, and business opportunities for women across diverse sectors and industries.
Their flagship meeting is the BRICS-Africa WBA Trade Conference to be held in Durban from 20 to 21 August which brings together over 500 women-owned businesses, including micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, from BRICS and Africa. The conference will include the first in-person joint meeting of BRICS WBA national chapters and develop recommendations to be presented to BRICS Leaders at the Summit.
Following the reports from the New Development Bank, BRICS Business Council and the BRICS Women's Business Alliance, the Summit is expected to adopt the eGoli Declaration as the main outcome document of the 2023 BRICS Leaders’ Summit.
South Africa is also pleased to welcome the first meeting of Ministers responsible for Women Affairs as an important step in mainstreaming women's issues across all areas of BRICS cooperation.
This is also a concrete step forward in addressing the needs of vulnerable groups. As a partnership, BRICS operates on the principles of openness, solidarity, mutual respect and understanding as well as mutually beneficial cooperation that is seen to deliver tangible benefits.
The XVth BRICS Summit is the venue and occasion for the voices of BRICS, Africa and the global South to converge and be heard. We meet to reflect on the status of cooperation, to consider regional and global developments and to assess the status of global governance reform.
The Summit is not the final event of South Africa as Chair of BRICS. We continue our programme of mutually beneficial cooperation until the end of 2023.
We look forward to further meetings including the Ministers for Disaster Management, Ministers of Tourism, possible Ministers of Transport meeting, the BRICS Parliamentary Forum, the Foreign Policy Dialogue, Young Diplomats and the first workshop on incident management later in the year. We particularly look forward to the return of the BRICS Games in October.
We are confident that we will leave 2023 having strengthened the BRICS partnership and having delivered benefits to the people of South Africa, BRICS, Africa and the global South.
Government calls on South Africans to continue to extend the warmest of South African welcomes to the many official delegates, businesspeople, media and civil society who will arrive from various parts of the continent and the world shortly for the Summit.
*Michael Currin is the Deputy Director-General of Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management (ICSM) at Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).