South Africa hands over BRICS council chairship

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The South African government has handed over the chairship of the BRICS Business Council (BBC) following 12 successful months at the helm.

Speaking at the conclusion of a two-day mid-term BBC meeting in Johannesburg, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, said South Africa welcomed the assurance from Brazil that the new government is committed to BRICS and continuing the relationship.  

BRICS is an acronym for the powerful grouping of the world's leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. 

Sisulu assured the BBC of the country’s support as it navigates its way around the continent.

“South Africa will chair the African Union (AU) in 2020 to usher in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. A vibrant and energetic Council is a very necessary partner for this.

“Yesterday, the 22nd country signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, meeting the minimum threshold for the agreement to come into effect. It bodes well for Africa, for SA and for the Business Council as it opens up Africa for new business opportunities.”

Sisulu said she was encouraged by the “exuberance” of the meeting.

“I hope you enjoyed your stay and hope you stay a little longer. We need you here for the long haul. The BRICS Family is a very important one to us and we’d like you make sure that you give the necessary underpinnings of this very important association,” Sisulu said.

Businessperson Busi Mabuza, who chaired the council for the past 12 months, said the South African council was confidentBrazil would take the BBC to greater heights. Mabuza served in the council with Ayanda Ntsaluba, Bridgette Radebe, Stavros Nicolaou and Elias Monage.

She highlighted the inroads made in the enhancement of the relationship between the New Development Bank and the BBC, which she said was strengthened in the past year.

“We have started seeing the fruits of that on the ground in South Africa and we are very pleased. The Energy Dialogue that was held in November last year was a proud moment for us. We were pleased with the outcomes of the skills challenge and I believe it is the reason our colleagues in the Skills Development Working Group continue to advocate for us to continue with it,” she said. 

Over the past year, she said the BBC has discussed infrastructure work that is being done.

“We are most excited about the opportunity that is often around maritime activities and we’d request that Brazil picks up on this issue,” she said.

Mabuza expressed gratitude for the support received from Sisulu and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Incoming chairperson José Serrador said his country recognised the excellent work done by its predecessors, “especially South Africa, for the strict cooperation in the process of handing over the chairpersonship”.

“We encourage the debate of measures that will make the demands of the Business Council more efficient and more civil. We would like to emphasise the voice of the private sector with our governments. We count on all national sections to reach this goal,” he said.

Initially, Serrador said, Brazil would propose three main issues for debate in 2019 - investment facilitation, trade facilitation and innovation and digital economy. 

“The presentations of the working groups show these topics are already a part of our discussions, many of which have been very robust, and proposals that will be highlighted in our recommendations to our Heads of State in the 2019 summit.”

Serrador announced that this year’s BRICS Summit will be on November 13 and 14 in Brasilia, under theme “Economic growth and innovative future”. –