The 10th anniversary of the BRICS Business Council calls for a reflection on the work of the council, with a key focus on milestones achieved and the identification of areas of improvement in line with its mandate. The anniversary provides South Africa with an opportunity to reimagine the operating model of the council and assess critical opportunities to develop a meaningful trajectory.
During the past decade, the focus was largely on knowledge-sharing and the development of processes, with moderate levels of success. The next decade must inject a level of pragmatism into the work programme of the BRICS Business Council through: (i) delivery of tangible projects across BRICS countries by introducing legacy/flagship projects that may be implemented in partnership with government; (ii) trade and investment promotion with targeted trade missions, building intra-BRICS sector networks, as well as acting as a critical access point for business to government to unblock challenges; and (iii) ensuring learning, knowledge-sharing and advocacy through understanding how our partner BRICS countries approach common development challenges confronting business, and develop recommendations.
South Africa assumed the chair of BRICS nations this year under the theme, BRICS & Africa: Partnerships for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism.
The SA Chapter of the BRICS Business Council will ensure the two economic priorities of our chairship are achieved. The priority is developing a partnership toward an Equitable Just Transition.
One of the key outcomes of this initiative will be the establishment of an African Centre of Excellence, which will network with centres of excellence across the African continent and the BRICS countries to share and collaborate on projects related to the Just Energy Transition.
The second priority is around transforming education and skills development for the future. The expected outcome of this initiative will be: (i) the development of BRICS energy skills benchmarking; (ii) the identification of current jobs data and statistics; (iii) a BRICS cooperative skills planning approach for the Just Energy Transition; and (iv) identification of high impact areas where we need to undertake skills ecosystem mapping within the BRICS nations.
The chairship will also work with other affiliate nations to diligently track the trade statistics amongst the BRICS nations; identify areas where trade performance has not met expectations; seek to understand the cause of the underperformance and propose solutions to identified non-tariff barrier challenges.
The key practical outputs here must lead the BRICS nations to improve the transparency of the trade and investment climate in the framework of agreed obligations, creating favourable conditions for the development of mutual trade and foreign direct investment in the BRICS-Africa nations, as well as advancement of Africa’s global economic participation, with SA as a catalyst, thus improving the diversification of production and exports.
Through SA’s chairship, BRICS must recommit to work with Africa to drive industrialisation and infrastructure development, which are critical in enabling trade and investment on the continent
The SA BRICS Business Council is planning a roadshow to meet with regional business bodies on the continent and work with the office of the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area to explore opportunities in the prioritised value chains for BRICS and Africa, and intra-Africa opportunities (agriculture and agro-processing, automotive and vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals, services, transportation, logistics and distribution) for the first set of interventions, to contribute to the acceleration of economic growth and facilitate access to technology and diversification of the export market at a business-to-business level on the continent.
In reimagining the BRICS Business Council to institutionalise a legacy of delivery, the council must work with the think-tank council to revisit the proposal around the development of an institutional research institute.
The research institute could be modeled similarly to the OECD, which can find solutions to common challenges, develop BRICS standards, share experiences and identify best practices to promote better policies for better lives distinctly suited to the BRICS and other developing countries. BM/DM