Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel, has reflected on the issues facing global economies as he welcomed all delegates at the 15th BRICS Summit, which officially kicked off in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning.
The Sandton Convention Centre has been a hive of activity as delegates from across the globe congregate to take part in the first in-person summit since the COVID-19 outbreak.
“A special welcome to all of you to the province of Gauteng, the economic powerhouse of the African continent, where 35% of South Africa’s wealth is generated. This small but very productive province accounts for 5% of Africa’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product],” said Patel.
The BRICS grouping of major emerging economies – Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Russia – is holding their summit in Johannesburg from 22-24 August 2023 under the chairship of South Africa.
Patel told the room full of delegates that the world looks different from five years ago when the country hosted the 10th BRICS Summit in 2018.
“Today, the world is more polarised, climate change is more pressing and the speed of technological innovation is rapidly increasing. These trends are in turn reshaping our economies and societies in more profound ways than more of us can project,” he said.
The Minister noted that change across the globe has created turmoil and tension.
“As the world changes, we have seen a rise of unilateralism and a pushback on the global rule-based system.”
Patel, however, believes that it cannot be business as usual for the private sector, governments and other role players. He has called on leaders to adapt to the “new normal” and often volatile, uncertain and complex world.
“It’s in this context that the BRICS Business Council meets here today,” Patel said.
Towards a better future
Despite challenges, he said the council is optimistic about the future.
The Minister reflected on some of the institutions that were built by the bloc, such as the New Development Bank, which drives investment and infrastructure, and supports economies and societies.
Patel said the power of science, technology and innovation must be harnessed to solve some of the world’s problems, from developing lifesaving vaccines to green technologies that can decarbonise the energy mix.
Other developments such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which has the potential to bring together a market of 1.3 billion people and provide a much-needed boost to African industrialisation, must be actively pursued.
“We’re no longer just a raw material supplier. Africa is taking its place in the world as an innovator and industrialiser — the Africa of people, young people, rapidly urbanising, digitally connected and energetic Africa.
“We’re pushing back against the toxic legacy of 55 States divided by borders from a continent of 1.3 billion people united in our resolve, connected in a unified manner.”
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Finance Minister, Fernando Haddad, said his country always strives to facilitate investment in the interest of his country. He described BRICS’ contribution as “enormous”.
“In Brazil, we believe in multilateralism and cultural and social diversity, and that we equitably distribute the opportunities.”
Haddad said it was important for BRICS to be unified.
India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, commended businesses for organising centres for them to discuss the BRICS economies.
He said India, which grew its GDP by 7.2% last year, is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Goyal said India is also transforming its infrastructure, and that it boasts more than 800 million internet users and an increase in online services.
In addition, the country is also growing its renewable energy sources.
Goyal also reflected on the important partnership between the BRICS countries and the global south, based on mutual respect.