Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met in Johannesburg, South Africa to deliberate on their role as emerging economies in the world in what is referred by their acronym BRICS. One of the major point of discussion and agreement was sending a strong voice against protectionism, a new global trend spearheaded by US President Donald Trump.
The leaders present included China’s President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Mondi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, and South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa
BRICS countries accounted for more than 25 per cent of the world’s GDP in 2017 – a figure that is to grow to nearly 27 per cent in the next few years, the IMF predicts. Equally, these countries account for 40 per cent of the world’s population and more than 25 per cent of the party’s landmass.
When lauding the effort of the BRICS to protect free trade, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa noted the benefits of such movement will be felt by countries out of the BRICS club. This was discussed in a side BRICS-Africa outreach meeting attended by leaders from East Africa and was addressed by among others Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mondi.
President Ramaphosa said the BRICS grouping took a fairly firm stance against protectionism and “felt the need to do everything to protect the multilateral system which is now under attack.”
“We confirmed our commitment to the World Trade Organisation, as the most effective mechanism available to ensure that a rules based transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system,” said President Ramaphosa.
African Union (AU) Chair and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Togo President and Chair of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Faure Gnassingbe, Angolan President Joao Lourenco, Ugandan President and Chair of the East African Community, Yoweri Museveni and Namibia as incoming chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) participated in the BRICS-Africa outreach session.
Rwanda President Paul Kagame observed that Africa and BRICS shared common interests. ” First, we have a common interest in an open and fair international system. Second, strengthening cooperation with BRICS contributes to medium and long-term human security and wider benefits, especially employment, for Africa’s young population,” observed Kagame.
He said AU would want to collaborate with BRICS on key sectors, including industrialization, infrastructure, as well as peace and security, which are at the heart of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Uganda President and current chair of East Africa community presented a strong case for the region.
“The East African Community (EAC) is comprised of: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda. Our population is now 168 million people and our combined GDP (PPP) is now US$ 440 billion. By 2050, the population of East Africa will be 878,236,244 people.”
He said BRICS Countries could easily find investment opportunities in East Africa in value addition to cereals, fruits, milk products, fish products, forest products, beverages, minerals such as iron ore, copper, nickel, tungsten, cobalt, and coltan . These minerals produce steel and copper that are needed in all basic industries and are also alloys for metal products for specialized purposes such as heat resistance.
“The advantages of 1.3 billion Chinese in a land area of 3 million Square miles, 1.25 billion Indians in a land area of 1 million square miles, 150 million Russians in a land of 5.3 million square miles of land and 200 million Brazilians in a land area of 3.29 million square miles are not lost and have never been lost on the Pan Africanists in Africa. Therefore, our partners in BRICS should be aware of the sustained integration efforts in Africa that will, in the end, rationalize the interactions between us and the BRICS powers,” noted President Museveni.