BRICS countries strive for strengthened collaboration

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The push for improved cooperation and growth of the BRICS bloc are emerging strongly as key elements of the 10th BRICS Summit currently underway in Johannesburg.

Delivering the report of the work of the New Development Bank (NDB) to a sitting of the Heads of State of BRICS, NDB President Kundapur Kamath said the bank, established in 2014 by the bloc, has made tremendous progress.

“The bank is now fully operational and is in a rapid, though prudent, growth phase, building on the strong foundation that has already been laid,” said Kamath on Thursday.

The NDB is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS). In the progress update, Kamath highlighted that the bank, which has its headquarters in Shanghai, China, has to date approved 23 projects worth about $5.7 billion in its member countries.

“These projects now go beyond the core renewable energy sectors that we earlier focused on into areas such as rural roads, ecosystem restoration, water supply, particularly in rural areas, irrigation system restructuring, and energy conservation, reflecting our ability to appraise increasingly complex projects as we continue to move up the learning curve.”

Almost all of the bank’s lending supports sustainable infrastructure and development.

The bank has received over $4 billion in capital. The bank’s Africa Regional Centre (ARC), which was launched in August 2017, has also made progress.

“The ARC in South Africa is fully operational,” Kemath said, adding that the centre located in Johannesburg has been instrumental in helping the bank to become more effective.

Meanwhile, Kemath announced that the NDB is due to open a branch in São Paulo, Brazil, later this year, while another is to be opened in Russia next year.

Following his remarks, the NDB and government of Brazil signed an agreement on the hosting of the bank’s Americas Regional Office (ARO) in Brazil.

The bank currently employs about 115 staff and hopes to have a staff complement of 200 by the end of the year.

Kemath said the bank is energised about the future, given that rapid technological changes are disrupting the way the world operates and require new ways of thinking.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa commended the work of the bank, saying it has taken BRICS beyond the confines of a talk shop, and catapulted it into a forum where decisions are taken and implemented.

 “The bank is doing wonderful work,” said President Ramaphosa.

Work of the BRICS Business Council

At the open session attended by President Ramaphosa’s counterparts, namely Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Michel Temer, the annual report of the BRICS Business Council was delivered by council chair Dr Iqbal Survé.

BRICS countries have reinforced their ongoing commitment to ensuring greater economic trade and investment ties among themselves.

“What underpins cooperation is the commitment to serve our countries in the interest of creating a better life for all,” said Survé.

The three major focus points identified during South Africa’s BRICS Business Council rotating chairmanship were youth entrepreneurship, the digital economy, skills development for the 4th Industrial Revolution, and agriculture and food security.

These themes were advanced in the annual meeting through continued deliberation on the establishment of a BRICS seed bank and a presentation on youth entrepreneurship.

Initiatives discussed at length included the establishment of a BRICS credit rating agency and the new international payment system among others.

Survé said it was expected that agreements on these would be signed during the council’s annual meeting. However, it was identified that further consultation is required in these matters “before finalisation can be reached”.

Practical collaboration

There was emphasis on practical collaboration among the bloc’s members to identify bankable projects, an objective which all members seek to achieve.

A proposal was also made to establish a 10th working group on youth. A detailed proposal on this will be received by the end of July.

“A presentation was made and it was well received within the Council,” Survé said.

Following the signing of two agreements at the session, the Heads of State broke away to engage in bilateral sessions ahead of the conclusion of the Summit on Friday.

The 10th Summit, which got underway on Wednesday, is the second summit to be hosted by South Africa since joining the bloc in 2011. -