The expansion of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) grouping is expected to be one of the key issues to dominate discussions as leaders of the bloc gather in South Africa this week.
More than 30 Heads of State and Government from across Africa will be attending the summit. Furthermore, over 20 countries have formally applied to join BRICS and several others have expressed an interest in becoming part of the BRICS family.
In his address to the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa supports the expansion of the membership of BRICS.
This is a sentiment shared by China, whose Ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong on Friday said that the body is “a big family of good partners, based on mutual assistance for a win-win cooperation”.
“The value of BRICS extends beyond the interests of its current members. For its efforts to be more effective, BRICS needs to build partnerships with other countries that share its aspirations and perspectives,” President Ramaphosa said, with less than two days to go before the all-important summit.
As a formation, President Ramaphosa said, BRICS plays an important role in the world due to its economic power, market potential, political influence and development cooperation.
“BRICS countries can collectively shape global dynamics and acting together, have the potential to drive significant changes in the world economy and international relations.
“An expanded BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations with different political systems that share a common desire to have a more balanced global order,” President Ramaphosa said.
The South African Head of State said collectively, BRICS members have used their voice to call for a world that is more equitable, balanced and governed by an inclusive system of global governance.
“Being a BRICS member has created positive opportunities for South Africa. It has enabled our country to have a strategic relationship with China.
“Based on the strategic relationship between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China, we will be signing several agreements during President Xi’s State visit.
“We have steadily strengthened trade and investment ties with other BRICS countries alongside collaboration in areas like development, skills, technology, security and innovation,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President said South Africa has benefited from the New Development Bank, which was established by the BRICS countries in 2015.
“Our country has been funded by the bank in several infrastructure projects to the value of R100 billion in sectors such as roads, water, transport and energy. South Africa has always championed the interests of Africa within BRICS.
“We want to build a partnership between BRICS and Africa so that our continent can unlock opportunities for increased trade, investment and infrastructure development.
“There are great opportunities for other BRICS countries to participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area by locating production and services in various countries on the African continent, including our own, by partnering with local companies and entrepreneurs,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa explained that the BRICS Summit is particularly important as it is being held as the world is confronted by fundamental challenges that are bound to determine the course of international events for years to come.
“Our world has become increasingly complex and fractured, as it is increasingly polarised into competing camps. Multilateralism is being replaced by the actions of different power blocs, all of which we trade with, invest with, and whose technology we use.
“It is for this reason that South Africa continues to advocate for an open and rules-based global governance, trade, financial and investment system.
“In addition to the other African leaders in attendance, we will also be welcoming leaders from several countries of the Global South. These include countries from the Caribbean and South America, from the Middle East, from West Asia, South Asia and South-East Asia,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa reiterated that South Africa is directly involved in a number of efforts to bring peace to Africa.
“We are currently involved in supporting the people of Mozambique and the DRC to ensure that there is peace and stability in their countries,” the President said.
To further strengthen economic ties between African countries and the United States, President Ramaphosa said South Africa is inviting more than 30 African trade ministers and senior US Administration and Congressional representatives to the next forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) scheduled for November this year.
President Ramaphosa said that South Africa is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a forum of 120 countries that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
“Our decision not to align with any one of the global powers does not mean that we are neutral on matters of principle and national interest. Our non-aligned position exists alongside our active support for the struggles of the oppressed and marginalised in different parts of the world.
“We have always believed that the freedom we won – and the international solidarity from which we benefited – imposes a duty on us is to support the struggles of those who continue to experience colonialism and racial oppression,” the President said.
On Tuesday, President Ramaphosa will host His Excellency President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China on a State Visit to South Africa.
The welcome ceremony will take place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria ahead of the 15th BRICS Summit set to take place from 22 – 24 August 2023.
Relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China are governed by a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), whose programme of action is set out in a Ten-Year Strategic Programme of Cooperation (2020–2029).