Speech: Opening Remarks

Published 31 March 2017, by Dr Iqbal Survé.

Mr. Onkar Kanwar, Chairman of the Indian BRICS Business Council

Mr. Sergey Katyrin, Chairman of Russia BRICS Business Council

Mr. XU Lirong, Chairman of China BRICS Business Council,

Mr. José Rubens de la Rosa, Chairman of Brazil BRICS Business Council

Members of the BRICS Business Council and working groups

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my honour to be speaking to you all today in my capacity as the incoming Chair of the South African Chapter.  I am committed to making the BRICS Business Council a resounding success and ensuring that South Africa is an active and valuable participant. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Brian Molefe for all his dedication and hard work during his tenure.

BRICS cooperation at a governmental and business level has made great strides since its inception.  What makes BRICS work is that we as a group of countries have many needs and objectives in common, whilst still operating in a competitive space. We are facing many challenges right now, including a slump in commodity prices, an economic slowdown in many parts of the world and the urgent need to continue to uplift our people. We need to take things to the next level and the question is where does it make sense to work together and leverage our resources and capabilities.  We need to play the “long game” to over time diversify our economies to a point where they are better able to withstand some of the shorter term challenges and focus on the implementation of projects of mutual benefit.

Cooperation in R&D is critical, with a specific focus on the needs and requirements of our countries and people.  We can open up new markets and products and services using our significant home and regional markets as the base from which to grow further.  This means that infrastructure development and growth in manufacturing and industrialisation are also key, as is an enabling policy environment.  We need to have the right skills and competencies to allow our companies to compete in an ever-more competitive environment and to innovate and gear up for a future where the fourth industrial revolution will impact our workforce.  These are areas where we have immense collective resources and political will.  The NDB has already made a positive impact but we need to also leverage other developmental funding and private equity.  All of this needs to happen at the same time as an integrated approach needs to be taken if we are to accelerate the impact of BRICS in a sustainable manner, no easy task which will require a change in our way of work.  I do however have no doubt that it is indeed possible and that by leveraging our existing processes we can achieve a step change in not only the amount but also the pace of change in our countries.

Our overarching goal as the South African BRICS Business Council is, to bring tangible projects to fruition more quickly and we continue to focus on the following programmes:

  • Insurance and re-insurance cooperation
  • Agriculture
  • Electricity generation and Transmission infrastructure in Africa
  • BRICS information technology connectivity
  • African Union’s North South Development Corridor
  • Oceans economy co-ordination
  • Co-operation projects on manufacturing in aviation
  • Manufacturing and industrialisation programmes

We want to drive project development in these areas and in the run up to 2018 when South Africa will host BRICS, including participation from the rest of Africa.  Economic development is the key to social upliftment and this is where business can and is making the difference.

I would like to thank Mr Kanwar and the Indian team for their hard work and dedication in making their Chairmanship such a success and continuing to evolve our work programme. I look forward to working with Mr. XU Lirong and his team over the next year and the next phase of our work, you are assured of South Africa’s continued and full support.

I thank you.