Public lecture by Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule on the Outcomes of the 10th BRICS Johannesburg Summit at the Sol Plaatjie University, Kimberley, Northern Cape, 19 September 2018 :
Our Programme Director, Prof Mary Jean Baxen,
Prof Collin Miruka,
Prof Patrick Fitzgerald,
Members of Senate and Council present,
MEC of Education, Ms Barbara Bartlett and other members of Exco present,
Academics and Staff,
Provincial Chairperson of the ANC, Dr Zamani Saul, the leadership and all other political parties present,
President of SRC, Mr Zolani Jack, Members of the SRC and the entire student leadership present,
Officials present here,
I am honoured and of course delighted to interact with you today, particularly because of our focus of engagement which is the outcomes of the recently concluded 10th BRICS Summit which was held in Johannesburg in July this year. You will recall that before the commencement of the Summit, we criss-crossed the length and breadth of our country presenting and informing our people what our partnership within the BRICS entails. We further focused on ensuring that South Africans understands the importance we attach to the BRICS formation and the benefits we derive thereof.
In this context we made a commitment to get back to the people and report on the outcomes of the Summit. Certainly this is our first public lecture of this kind which is held at the university named after the first Secretary General of the South African Native National Congress, later named African National Congress (ANC) and also the first Black South African to write a novel, Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje.
The summit took place during the 10th anniversary of the BRICS formation which coincided with a very significant year where South Africa celebrates the centenary of the two giants in our liberation, namely Mama Albertina Sisulu and former President Tata Nelson Mandela. Whose contribution shape our current democratic dispensation and internationalist character.
The Summit indeed afforded us a fitting platform to again reflect on the important pillars of our foreign policy, particularly our cooperation with countries of the South. Tata Madiba alluded to this in his inaugural State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 24 May 1994 when he said: “We will also be looking very closely at the question of enhancing South-South cooperation in general as part of the effort to expand our economic links with the rest of the world.”
I can inform you that it is in this context that South Africa accepted the invitation to join BRICS in 2011. We believe that economic cooperation remains an important instrument to pursue our national interests and improve the living conditions of our people while contributing to the well-being of our fellow Africans and all those in communities across our nations.
Having said that, I would like to take an opportunity to briefly reflect on the history of our membership to the BRICS formation before outlining the outcomes of the summit and the benefits we have leveraged from the opportunities it continues to provide.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It must be public knowledge that our foreign policy outlook and continued focus on strengthening relations with formations and people of the South is largely informed by our history as well as identity. We however must emphasise that we are Africans who share historic commonalities with countries of the Global South which includes amongst others, the struggle against apartheid and colonialism. We also share common aspirations in regard to the kind of the world we wish to live in and the shared future which can benefit humanity.
Similarly, the BRICS formation in this context signifies a long standing tradition of solidarity that was firmly established 63 years ago, in April 1955. This was when countries of Asia and Africa met at the historic Bandung Conference in the emerging Cold War era situation of which the meeting’s significance and outcomes are well documented. I must however remind you that the Bandung Conference resulted in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in later years.
Amid pressure from the Cold War bipolarisation, those countries were able to concertedly affirm that they would choose neither the East nor the West, but pursue their own path and strategy under the “Bandung Principles” of the Afro-Asia solidarity. For us it is important to recall that South Africa was at the Bandung Conference, represented by selected ANC leaders.
Subsequently, with the attainment of our democracy, it is again common knowledge that South Africa shared the same socio-economic and underdeveloped challenges as countries of the Global South. To a certain extent our challenges continue to be compounded by an international system that perpetuates the marginalisation of the Global South and the poor in every corner of the globe.
The BRICS formation has demonstrated potential to change the world. This is possible considering that the BRICS formation has joined an array of inter-regional bodies that contribute to global diffusion of power. Of course we joined the BRICS formation to advance our foreign policy objectives that are predicated on our domestic interests and the promotion of the African Agenda.
We can, once again, underscore that our 2018 Chairship of the BRICS Forum has been guided by our commitment to ensure that the African Agenda, as well as that of the Global South, remain on the Agenda of BRICS, particularly as it relates to garnering BRICS support for industrialisation and infrastructure development. We have sought to harmonise policies adopted in regional and international fora with those pursued in BRICS, more notably the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The benefits that South Africa and the African derive from our membership of the BRICS are both practical and tangible. A case in point is that South Africa-BRIC trade has grown from $28bn in 2010 to $35bn in 2017.
Additionally the establishment and operalisation of the BRICS New Development Bank as well as the Africa Regional Centre (ARC), which we proudly host in Johannesburg, has brought closer the alternative project funding institution to our people and the continent.
Just as a reminder, infrastructure and sustainable development project funding by the BRICS bank will also be extended to countries that are not members of the formation, and therefore African countries will benefit a great deal. I can say without any fear of contradiction that the ARC will enable us to identify projects that will enhance economic connectivity and bolster intra-Africa trade, among others.
It must further be noted that we witnessed with pride the first tranche of NDB project loans disbursed in 2016. I recall that this trench included a project in renewable energy amounting to 180 million USD to our own country. This has enabled us to stabilize our electricity grid supply and keep the much-needed jobs through continued operations in factories. There are those who are already saying the NDB could be the new World Bank, as far as I know this was not the objective of its creation. In May 2018 South Africa was granted an additional loan of USD 200 million by the NDB for expansion of the Durban port. It is worth noting that thus far the NDB has disbursed loans totalling USD 5.1 billion.
Let me at this juncture turn my focus to some specific outcomes of the 2018 10th BRICS Summit. South Africa in its capacity as Chair of the BRICS grouping hosted the Johannesburg Summit on the 25-27 July 2018, in Sandton, Johannesburg, under the theme, “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.
President Ramaphosa in his opening address to the Summit expanded on the theme, further stating, quantum leaps in technology and innovation present enormous opportunities for growth, development and human progress.The president also indicated that the surge in innovation has the potential to dramatically improve productivity and to place entire countries on a new trajectory of prosperity. It has the potential to solve many of the social problems we face, by better equipping us to combat disease, hunger and environmental degradation.
A report by the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, which is roughly two years from now, three most important skills for an employee will be complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. Admittedly this require emerging markets to institute innovative programmes to re-skill the current workforce to be able to match the advances in technology. This of course will be achieved within the context of BRICS and also in cooperation with other formation across the globe.
In line with the theme, we informed our guests that, as a country, we have already committed to establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission. It will include the private sector and civil society, among others. In this regard, the BRICS Summit has adopted the Johannesburg declaration and an Action Plan based on this thematic focus and other pressing international issues. The BRICS Heads of State also presided over the signing of a couple of memorandums of understanding.
During deliberations of the Annual Meeting of the BRICS Business Council, we recognised the achievements and progress the Council had made over the past year and analysed the opportunities and challenges facing the emerging economies. The five BRICS countries reinforced their ongoing commitment and agreed on the importance of ensuring greater economic, trade and investment ties amongst the BRICS countries.
The three major focus areas identified during South Africa’s BRICS Business Council’s rotating chairmanship were:
1. Youth – Fostering Entrepreneurship
2. The Digital Economy – Skills Development for the 4th Industrial Revolution
3. Agriculture and Food Security
Perhaps I must state that, flowing from the above and our commitment to the Establishment of the BRICS Credit Rating Agency, there is growing global interests in how we manage the BRICS affairs. Just a few week ago, two of the ‘Big Three’ rating agencies has given the BRICS New Development Bank positive ratings, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has assigned its AA+ long-term and A1+ short-term issuer ratings with a stable outlook while Fitch assigned the NDB a long-term issuer default rating (IDR) of AA+ with a stable outlook and a short-term IDR of F1+. This is a positive development in that it provides the NDB with a unique opportunity to establish itself as an important player in the multilateral development finance space. This further negates the perception of naysayers that the BRICS grouping lacks the required clout to influence global power dynamics.
Also, the Council reviewed the major work and achievements during South Africa’s presidency in 2018 and listened to the reports presented by the nine working groups, on energy and the green economy, financial services, deregulation, manufacturing, infrastructure, agribusiness, skills development, regional aviation and the digital economy.
Further moves towards enhancing economic development came in the form of the establishment of a BRICS Tourism Track and the BRICS Women’s Initiative.
On a separate matter, a proposal was made to the Summit, arising from deliberations from the 2018 BRICS Youth Summit, to consider the establishment of a Youth Working Group, as the 10th Working Group of the Council. This matter is receiving the attention it deserves.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me underscore that all the BRICS partners utilised the summit occasion to recommit to the pursuit of a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, as embodied in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Importantly, this commitment of the BRICS Leaders was also strongly supported by the BRICS Outreach partners.
This brings me to an important aspect of our hosting. We convened, on the margins of the summit, the BRICS-Africa Outreach Dialogue and the BRICS Plus Initiative. Thus the following Heads of State/Government attended the Summit: Rwanda, Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Senegal, Gabon, Togo, Uganda, Jamaica, Argentina, Turkey, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and Zimbabwe
I must indicate that both the Outreach Dialogue and the Initiative were held simultaneously to reflect the broad partnerships BRICS has stimulated with the African continent and the Global South.
Key outcomes of the Johannesburg Declaration, included amongst others: establishment of a BRICS Working Group on the 4th Industrial Revolution through the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) and its Advisory Group consisting of respective representatives of BRICS Ministries of Industry; BRICS Networks of Science Parks, Technology Business Incubators and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises were established to further support initiatives of the 4th Industrial Revolution; BRICS Vaccine Centre was established here in South Africa.
The declaration, which was reached to the principles of consensus further committed to the principals of mutual respects, sovereignty, equality, democracy, inclusiveness and strengthened collaboration in key subthemes; namely: Strengthening multilateralism, reforming global governance and addressing common challenges; Strengthening and consolidation BRICS cooperation in International peace and Security; BRICS partnership for global economic recovery, reform of financial and economic global governance institutions, and the Forth Industrial Revolution; and People to People Cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, allow me to turn my attention to education as a matter that received a focused attention of the summit. Our leaders agreed that there is a need to develop an outcome based education that will assist us in meeting the developmental challenges brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this vein the BRICS Heads of State/Governments reaffirmed the importance of higher education exchange for BRICS and called for a network of universities across the BRICS countries to collaborate and exchange knowledge and research experience.
Again, I am alluding to this so that the Institution we visiting today, knows that it also has a role to play in the development of the BRICS educational Programme. The BRICS University Network is therefore an important structure that will undertake the research that is needed to inform the overall BRICS collaboration and how it must evolve.
There are pockets of excellence in all our universities and our goal should be to benefit all.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of International Relations and Cooperation.