On January 1, 2023, South Africa assumed the role of the Chair of Brics for 2023 and envisages hosting the 15th Brics Summit of Heads of State and Government during August this year.
Brics is an acronym for the influential plurilateral grouping of some of the world’s leading emerging market economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
The five countries of Brics are home to almost 40% of the world’s population, 30% of land coverage, 18% of world trade, and 25% of the global nominal GDP. Their collective contribution to global economic growth over the last decade has almost reached 50%, which makes this group of states a leading power in global economic development.
Brics aims to promote peace and security towards a just multi-polar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, co-operation, co-ordinated action and collective decision-making of all states.
Brics has not only enhanced the voice of emerging markets and developing countries in the world, but also established itself as an important platform for promoting South-South co-operation. Brics co-operation has been widely recognised by developing countries, and its status and role in multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations, the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In the midst of the current post Covid-19 global economic crisis, many countries in the world are looking to Brics member states as the new locomotives for global economic growth and to provide renewed impetus to global economic co-operation. For example, Brics trade and investment with low-income countries have served as an alternative to traditional financial players and a major support system in the wake of the global financial crisis.
For the duration of South Africa’s Chairship of Brics, it has adopted the theme: “Brics and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism.”
The theme reflects the value of Brics as a partnership of leading emerging markets and developing countries to provide leadership and momentum towards global growth, sustainable development, and meaningful and equal participation of the global South in the global system. It also emphasises the need to restructure the global political, economic, and financial architecture to be more equitable, balanced and representative.
South Africa’s membership within Brics is consistent with its foreign policy objectives of strengthening South-South relations especially within the context of international relations and co-operation between Asian, African, and Latin American countries – collectively known as countries of the South.
South Africa’s positive role in global governance structures as well as its position within organisations of the South, notably the African Union (AU), the Group of G77 (G77) and China and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is appreciated by Brics and other like-minded partners.
South Africa is also the only African country represented in the Group of 20 (G20), which has become an important institution on the reform of the financial and economic global governance architecture.
Over the past 16 years since the establishment of Brics, the foundation for co-operation has been consolidated and the areas of co-operation have been expanded.
Brics has become an all-round and multi-level framework, with Brics summit playing a leading role, supported by Brics Meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Meetings of National Security Advisers, carrying out practical co-operation in dozens of areas such as economy and trade, finance, science and technology, industry, agriculture, culture, education, health, think tanks, and friendship cities.
With the growing strength of the five countries, Brics co-operation has deepened and become more tangible. The influence of Brics co-operation has gone beyond the five countries and become a constructive force for boosting world economic growth, improving global governance, and promoting democracy in international relations.
South Africa’s theme for 2023 is “Brics and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism” emphasises that Brics co-operation responds to the needs of the larger international community, and should provide leadership and momentum towards global growth, sustainable development, and inclusion of the global South in the world system.
The following priorities encapsulate the theme.
Firstly, developing a partnership towards an equitable just transition
Recent erratic weather experiences have confirmed that climate change is a growing threat to human well-being. Consequently, tackling climate change requires urgent, significant, and transformational changes across all sectors of the economy. Brics is committed to exploring opportunities to manage the risks associated with climate change and consequently improving the lives and futures of the global citizenry.
Secondly, transforming education and skills development for the future
Education and continuous skills development are long term solutions towards development and eradicating poverty. Under this priority, existing co-operation and initiatives towards knowledge creation and knowledge exchange to unlock opportunities for the future will be pursued.
Thirdly, unlocking opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement establishes the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. The pact connects 1.3bn people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4tn. It has the potential to lift 30mn people out of extreme poverty.
Thus, the AfCFTA creates a predictable environment for investments in Africa by the Brics partners, particularly in infrastructure development. Under this priority, priority will be given to building a partnership between Brics and Africa to unlock mutually beneficial opportunities for increased trade, investment, and infrastructure development.
Fourthly, strengthening post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development
The 2030 Agenda contains a set of shared objectives, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs cover issues the promotion of decent work, the fight against poverty, inequalities and climate change, the need for greater gender equality, free quality education and stronger institutions.
Under this priority, strategies towards placing Brics economies at the centre of global economic growth and post Covid-19 recovery will be embarked upon.
Brics will look to identify solutions for accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and promote that equity, fairness, and a recognition of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities should underpin the Brics response.
Lastly, strengthening multilateralism, including working toward real reform of global governance institutions and strengthening the meaningful participation of women in peace processes
Without compromising on the common vision of a more equitable, fair, balanced, just and representative global political, economic, and financial system, Brics will build on recent reform achievements. It will identify achievable, meaningful, and timeous reforms that can be realised under pressure of collective voice and influence.
South Africa recognises the importance to address the marginalisation of women in peace processes as lasting peace, security and sustainable development cannot be achieved without the inclusion of women in conflict resolution as well as in post conflict reconstruction.