Non-BRICS countries commit to strengthen relations with bloc

Friday, July 27, 2018

Non-BRICS countries have expressed their commitment to strengthening relations with the bloc in the interest of mutual benefit for developing countries.

Speaking during the BRICS Africa Outreach Dialogue session and the BRICS Plus session at the 10th BRICS Summit currently underway at the Sandton Convention Centre, African Union (AU) Chairperson Paul Kigame said the AU has common interests with the BRICS bloc.

Kigame was among the ray of African leaders invited to the session, speaking on the last day of the three-day Summit. Friday’s dialogue session saw non-BRICS countries engaging with the five BRICS leaders which make up the bloc.

Kigame, who is also President of Rwanda, said the AU has a common interest with BRICS in an open and fair international system.

Kigame was among the 27 Presidents invited to make their inputs at the Summit.

“Strengthening cooperation with BRICS contributes to medium and long term human security and wider benefits in especially employment for Africa’s youth,” said President Kigame in his remarks at the dialogue.

Kigame’s comments come at a time when the African continent is known to have the youngest population in the world.

According to the African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) about 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24 in Africa.

The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2045.

At Friday’s session, the AU said, it wants to collaborate with BRICS -- which brings together the five major emerging economies namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- on key sectors including industrialisation, infrastructure and peace and security.

These areas, said Kigame, are at the heart of the African Union Agenda 2063, adding that this is important in realising the continent’s common aspirations especially related to new technologies.

African Free Trade Area

Speaking on the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which South Africa signed earlier this month, Kigame said the new free trade area is set to change in a positive and far reaching ways how Africa does business with itself and the world.  

“We are working towards a more unified and effective African Union that would enhance our continents governance and operations with partners around the world.”

The AfCFTA is the culmination of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago in the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted by African Heads of State and government in 1980.

The AfCFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments. This will progressively eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, making it easier for African businesses to trade within the continent and cater to and benefit from the growing African market.

Kigame said there is a “clear interest in Africa and BRICS members”.

He however stressed that what is most needed is a mechanism for effective delivery of agreed areas.

“Working together we will continue to a principal source of economic dynamism in the years to come. I wish to assure you of Africa’s commitment to increased dialogue and active engagement,” he said.

Climate change

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean, said the area struggled with low levels of economic growth and also battled with climate change issues.

Holness said the Caribbean was vulnerable to severe weather events, adding that it is important to protect the Caribbean islands economies from these.

His comments come as the Johannesburg Declaration signed by the leaders on Thursday made reference of the importance of research and to enhance the resilience of the collective agricultural and food systems in the face of the changing climate.

Meanwhile, the East African Community (EAC)’s chair as well as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the regional intergovernmental organisation of six partner states which includes Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan no longer want to export raw materials.

Meanwhile, incoming chair of SADC and President of Namibia, Hage Geingob, said the session to include non-BRICS countries is a noble gesture, saying the Summit is a timely and relevant one.

He stressed that the 4th Industrial Revolution will change the working world.

“Labour as we know it will not be the same,” he said.

Providing aid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said while the world is going through a difficult time with natural disasters and financial crises, his country has continued to provide humanitarian aid to the world.

Last year $8.4 billion in aid was disbursed.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the dialogue is a good opportunity for BRICS and other emerging communities to exchange ideas on important issues of development.

India’s relations with Africa has been historically deep. India has given the highest priority to expanding these historic relations for the development and peace in the continent.

“For the last four years we have had more than 100 visits and engagement at the level of the Heads of State and these have taken our economic relations to new heights,” said Modi.

India has designated a line of credits worth $11 billion to more than 40 countries. Further, the Indian private sector has invested $54 billion in the African countries.

In his opening remarks earlier in the session, South Africa's President and Chair of BRICS Cyril Ramaphosa said it is important to work together to address common concerns.

He said the meeting comes at a time when the world is facing strong headwinds with a rise in protectionalism and a shift towards unilateral action.

President Ramaphosa is due to address a media briefing at 3pm as the Summit which got underway on Wednesday and wraps up today. -