SA’s Brics strategy ‘needs African focus’
SA WAS developing a Brics strategy as it sought to make the most of the opportunities that the emerging market group provided, said ambassador Anil Sooklal, South African "sous-sherpa" of Brics.
Speaking at a global economic governance seminar in Pretoria yesterday, Mr Sooklal said the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) strategy paper would provide SA with a "clear strategy" on where the country wanted to go with its membership of the emerging market group. SA should also ensure that it represented Africa’s interests in its foreign policy.
After many efforts at lobbying, SA was finally admitted to the exclusive Brics forum at its second summit, held in Brazil on April 16 2010, with some critics arguing that SA was less deserving than bigger emerging economies such as Indonesia and Mexico.
Neren Rau, CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in an interview last month that while SA’s inclusion in Brics had been significant for trade, SA did not have a clear strategy for what it wanted to achieve in the group. With China and India’s economies losing momentum, SA would need to have clear strategies in place to avoid being "a casualty" of the slowing Asian economies, Mr Rau said.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said yesterday the strategy paper was "in its final stages" but could be implemented only after next year’s Brics summit, which will be held at Durban’s International Convention Centre from March 25-27.
Mr Sooklal said SA’s representation in Brics and the Group of 20 was not a "selfish, narrow interest" but included the African agenda as the country could not be "an island of prosperity" on the continent.
Mr Rau said yesterday that it would have been ideal for SA to enter Brics with a strategy, "but the ship has not sailed". A "key aspect" of the paper should be SA’s role within the group as the "gateway to Africa", as this was a reason for SA’s inclusion in Brics, he said.
The strategy should also aim to deal with the slowdown in the Brics economies. The establishment of a Brics development bank, which might be based in SA, could be a "partial solution" to the slowdown.
SA should also consider what it could learn from the other Brics states, as these countries had at one time been in a weak position but had found unique solutions.
SA should outline in the strategy paper "how it can internalise these lessons", Mr Rau said.
Mzukisi Qobo, an international political economy senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria, said at the seminar that while SA represented itself in Brics, it should use the platform "to articulate Africa’s interests". Many African states were indifferent to SA’s relationships with other countries and groups as they did not feel that SA represented them, he said.
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