SOUTH African officials say plans for a Brics Development Bank with starting capital of up to $50bn are gathering pace ahead of the group’s summit in Durban in two months.
"There is the political will from all the Brics countries to have this bank," South African ambassador to Brics Anil Sooklal said in Pretoria on Tuesday.
SA is lobbying to host the bank, if it gets off the ground, emphasising the sophistication and integrity of the financial services industry here. The country co-chaired the preparatory work with India.
Supporters of the idea of the bank have worked on the basis that each of the five Brics countries — the others are Brazil, China and Russia — will commit $10bn at the outset. Its objectives will include financing projects in poor and developing nations, particularly in Africa and India.
"We all found comfort with that ($50bn) figure but there is nothing official about it," said Dr Sooklal, a deputy director-general at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. "The leaders will decide."
South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) senior research fellow Peter Draper said it was still uncertain what decision, if any, about a Brics bank would be taken in Durban on March 26-27.
"This is quite a closely guarded secret and you have to decide what it is that the various states want.
"My take is that SA, China and India all see potential in the idea — but from different perspectives."
Russia and Brazil were much less enthusiastic, the former because its trade and investment focus was on the East, and the latter because it already had access to vast development funds.
Dr Sooklal and department director-general Jerry Matjila have done most of the heavy lifting to prepare the Durban summit. About 3,000 delegates and officials are expected to attend, as well as the presidents or prime ministers of all five countries.
Dr Sooklal said the event budget had been about R20m, but had increased after a decision to involve African regional economic communities and the African Union in the summit. SA is often accused of acting in its own interests while purporting to promote those of Africa as a whole.
Apart from the development bank and African economic issues, the other summit goals are to set up a Brics Business Council and a think-tank, harnessing the intellectual and research capacity of the members.
The theme of the summit is: Brics and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation.
SA will chair the Brics group for 12 months after Durban, and then hand over to Brazil.
Brics controls 25% of the global gross domestic product, 30% of the world’s land and 43% of its population.
The implicit notion that SA’s historic economies ties with Europe are on the wane were challenged more than once last year. The European Commission said its 25 member states were jointly by far SA’s largest investors and trade partners.
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