Expanding SA's economic profile is the business of Brics Summit

President Cyril Ramaphosa and First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe arrive in Brasilia, Brazil, for the 11th Brics Summit. / Kopano Tlape/ GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa and First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe arrive in Brasilia, Brazil, for the 11th Brics Summit. / Kopano Tlape/ GCIS

Today, more than 50 senior SA business leaders will join their counterparts from Brazil, Russia, India and China to discuss strategies of achieving inclusive growth, shared prosperity and balanced development in the five-member bloc.

The Business Council, a body representing business leaders, will table recommendations to the heads of state of Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA (Brics) on how the political leaders can assist in expanding intra-Brics trade and investment.

At present, even though these countries account for a sizeable share of the world economy, trade between them is low and imbalanced. For example, of the total of all SA's exports, we only sell some 14.7% to the Brics nations.

To us, as members of the local chapter of the Brics Business Council - the body of business leaders which advises government officials and leaders - this low trade is an opportunity to grow our productive capacities to expand intra-Brics trade and even out the trade balance.

After its appointment in April, the local Brics Business Council speedily and successfully hosted the mid-term meeting of the Brics Business Council in SA. And soon after, we strengthened the secretariat and reorganised the working groups by appointing highly skilled new chairpersons to drive the work of the council.

While the council provides strategic direction, its work is made possible by various work streams. The work of the streams is then translated into implementable recommendations to the political leaders.

Since its inception, the business council has spent time learning from each other and exchanging information about opportunities and identifying constraints to growth in intra-Brics trade and investment.

We believe we now have to move decisively towards action. Spurred on by the urgent need to address poverty, inequality and unemployment, especially of our youth, our task is to assist President Cyril Ramaphosa to achieve the ambitious but achievable target of raising R1.3-trillion in direct investment to SA by 2023.

Before last week's second presidential investment conference and this week's Brics Summit and the African Development Bank's Africa Investment Conference, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Invest SA prepared a very detailed booklet, The Case for Investing in SA - Accelerating Economic Growth By Building Partnerships - outlining the case for investing in SA. It provides an extensive list of available investment incentives and where these opportunities are.

We have circulated an electronic copy of the booklet to all the partner secretariats of India, Brazil, China and Russia, and given copies to all the 850 business delegates to the Brics Business Forum today.

These are just not high-level opportunities. These are specific bankable projects. In brief, the opportunities are in agriculture and agro-processing; mining, minerals and beneficiation; manufacturing; advanced manufacturing; services and infrastructure.

The world's trading system and growth are still facing huge uncertainties. The European Union has yet to agree to terms of departure of the UK from the EU single market and the US trade war with China which, the International Monetary Fund warns, could shave off 0.8% from world growth, is still raging.

Fortunately, the Southern African Customs Union plus Mozambique has negotiated a partnership trade agreement with the UK in the event of Brexit, hard or soft.

Without being prescriptive, we believe the major transformative investment larger Brics economies can make in SA is in infrastructure - ports, roads, energy and water projects - not only to extract minerals wealth from SA but to strengthen our productive capacity, enable mineral beneficiation and to expand intra-Africa trade and investment and, ultimately, grow intra-Brics trade and investments.

To make this happen we must harness the power of our development finance institutions (DFIs). In this respect, the New Development Bank and the national DFIs like the IDC and our Development Bank of Southern Africa should play a leading role.

Mabuza is the chairperson of the IDC and chairs the SA chapter of the Brics Business Council

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