President Paul Kagame is among the world leaders attending the ongoing 10th BRICS Summit in South Africa.
BRICS is a grouping of leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The summit, experts say, is yet another opportunity for Africa to showcase its investment opportunities and recent gains toward free trade and open borders.
Attended by more than 1000 delegates since Wednesday, the summit brought together captains of industry, heads of state-owned entities, and government leaders who deliberated on strategic economic matters that could shape the future of BRICS as well as the bloc’s role in Africa.
Chaired by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, the forum took place under the theme, “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.
Delegates looked into the current global political economy and its implications on BRICS member countries, the implications of the fourth industrial revolution on inclusive growth and transformation, facilitating intra-BRICS trade, as well as fostering BRICS-Africa partnerships.
For President Ramaphosa, Africa represents a great investment opportunity for BRICS given the continent’s encouraging economic fortunes and its will to open up its borders for trade.
Ramaphosa told delegates at the summit that “there is great potential for investment in Africa”, highlighting the continent’s economic growth, demographic dividend, and need for infrastructure development.
He said that in the past decade Africa has grown at a rate of 2 to 3 percentage points faster than the global GDP, with regional growth predicted to remain stable above 5 per cent in 2018.
“This growth will be supported by increasing foreign direct investment flows, public investment in infrastructure and higher agricultural production,” he said.
He explained that with Africa’s working age population expected to double to 1 billion in the next 25 years and more opportunities presented by the recent move to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area, the BRICS can only look at Africa as an opportunity.
The Continental Free Trade Area, signed in Kigali earlier this year, will provide access to a market of over 1 billion people and a combined GDP of over $3 trillion.
“The value of this free trade area will only be fully realised through massive investment in infrastructure and skills development. This presents opportunities for BRICS countries, some of whom have extensive experience in infrastructure development and are world leaders in education and skills development,” Ramaphosa told the BRICS summit on Wednesday.
At the BRICS summit, leaders of selected African countries were also invited to attend as part of the bloc’s outreach programme.
President Kagame was invited as chairperson of the African Union while leaders of countries that currently chair regional economic blocs were also invited.
Gabon was invited as Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Uganda as Chair of East African Community (EAC), Ethiopia as Chair of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Togo as Chair of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Zambia as incoming Chair of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Namibia as incoming Chair of Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Angola as Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation.
Senegal is also participating in its capacity as Chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC), while also in attendance is Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Leonard Mungarurire, a consultant with the International Trade Centre in Rwanda, told The New Times yesterday that for Africa to benefit from BRICS, it needs to open up its borders, do away with visa restrictions, and make the recently created African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA) fully operational.
“We all know that there is a global trade war going on right now as a result of growing protectionism and there is never going to be a winner. Africa needs to find strengths now more than ever to break down trade barriers,” he said.
Teddy Kaberuka, an independent economist based in Kigali, also said that the theme for this year’s BRICS summit was relevant to Africa, adding that 4th industrial revolution is an opportunity for African countries to catch up and position themselves more strategically.
“The current global trend of growth presents Africa an opportunity to increase its production, access wider markets and attract more foreign investors as was the case for the ‘Asian Tigers’ in the 80s,” he said.
He added: “If BRICS strengthen their voice on the international stage, it will reduce the dominance of western countries and institutions, hence offer an alternative to African countries to seek development partners who can really support the priorities of the continent”.