South Africa celebrates 10 years of inclusion in BRICS
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2021 marks 10 years of South Africa’s inclusion in BRICS, this milestone is important in what is a historic position and aim for the ANC and all progressives who have long defined the relevance, strategic outlook and value of deepening South - South relations.
We have over the past decade seen greater policy certainty around our posture as it relates to the long held view of a necessary leaning toward the South and the consolidation of developing nations around the world. In determining its earliest foreign policy immediately following the abolition of apartheid, the African National Congress (ANC) openly adopted a posture and line that favoured links with the South.
South Africa’s foreign policy has long been directed both by the universal foreign policy principle and the strengthening of relations with all countries, even in light of this the natural priority was given to African countries and those countries of the South with whom the apartheid government had strained relations with.
There were many factors that precipitated the proactive approach of SA in its drive to strengthen and foster South- South relations, part amongst these factors was the need to forge strategic partnerships that would lay the foundation for much needed investment and aid for our fledgling state. This would later position South Africa as a country of the South and a leading proponent of the necessity for South-South relations. This key objective remained central in successive administrations and found maturity in the later inclusion of South Africa in BRIC.
Because we had taken a central role in the continent as a proponent for strong continental relations and deepening South-South relations, South Africa’s foreign policy had to be far more strategic in its drive to foster closer engagement with emerging economic powerhouses such as Brazil and a strengthening of the soft relations that had been maintained with India and China
With the wall street crash of the global recession of 2008, there was a renewed energy around the need to co-ordinate the global South. This new focus resulted in South Africa increasingly joining bodies and groups that bring developing countries together, with South Africa actively seeking to play a leadership role in these groupings. South Africa’s participation in other emerging country coalitions such as BASIC provided an opportunity to share and develop synergy and commonality around various globally contentious issues and also presented the opportunity for South Africa to promote and lobby for its candidacy in BRIC.
When the first BRIC summit sat in 2009 at Yekaterinburg, Russia, the South African minister of international relations (DIRCO) at the time wrote a letter to the various heads of states expressing the country’s wish to get involved in the forum, this action marked the launch of a robust diplomatic lobbying campaign. As part of the campaign various government departments worked tirelessly to ensure that we run an effective campaign.
The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of International Relations went all out to mobilise historic diplomatic allies, in favour of South Africa’s candidature with the four BRIC countries. Interactions with Brazil and India in the context of the IBSA forum provided an opportunity for South Africa to submit its candidature and express its motivations to these two emerging countries.
Our efforts to gain inclusion in BRICS, as a progress forum for emerging countries and platform to deepen the aspirations for a united global South matured in the December 2010 invitation of South Africa to the third BRIC summit in 2011 to be held in Sanya, China.
South Africa officially became a member of BRIC at this summit. BRICS, as it would be known from that day, would be a vital determinant of our priorities and foreign policy interests and allowed South Africa to project its identity as an emerging international player beyond being an accepted regional powerhouse in its immediate subregion.
In 2013 we hosted our first summit which not only cemented our role, not only as a continental political leader for the BRICS agenda, but also cemented our stature and status as a global driving force. South Africa had already had some esteem as the only African member country part of the G20 and having played a leading role in the formation of NEPAD and as a critical role player in shaping the posture and trajectory of the African Union.
Some of the achievements that followed the 2013 Summit hosted in our country are, amongst others, BRICS launching its first institution in 2014- the BRICS New Development Bank established to fund developmental projects in BRICS countries. A heightened discussion regarding the establishment of a credit rating agency coming from the south.
A credit rating agency would be a critical step at moving towards financial sovereignty and having the ability to attract much needed progressive investment to Africa. The prospective rating agency would contend the three pro-west dominant credit rating agencies Fitch, Moody’s and S&P global rating. This would also come with a deep discussion of the issuer-pay model that has been an obstacle for the establishment of other rating agencies in the past.
The BRICS Development Bank as espoused at the 2013 Durban forum was to be a vital institution to spear-head and co-ordinate the much needed infrastructure development in Asia and Africa. When South Africa proposed the establishment of the Bank, which was established two years later in 2015, it was seen as a means of sourcing additional finance for sustainable infrastructure and development projects in Africa.
The second main financial institution—a contingent reserve agreement—which was to act as a precautionary reserve fund to tackle the volatility of our local currencies was also formed with an authorized capital of $100 billion.
The inclusion of South Africa in BRICS permitted two key South African agencies for economic diplomacy, namely the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), to gain direct access, together with their counterpart agencies, to BRICS markets, and makes it possible collectively to raise funds and to form bilateral financial partnerships with them
The past 10 years have been a testing period in our country, our resolve has been tested, our relations and relationships have been tested and perspectives have been tested. The beauty of BRICS has always been its noble vision to systemically claw back the ability for our country to act, with candour and without reservations that must pander to what at times are nefarious global interests. It will be the crystalisation of a country that has the real ability to act in the best interest of the people. It is and has always been about sharing a common strategic outlook that contends substantively the unipolarism we have seen stifling our ability to act fully in the best interest of our people. BRICS must remain strong, with a clear agenda. Clear vision and unrelenting conviction.
As the gye widens and the beast approaches Bethlehem, may the center hold, the falcon hear the falconer and nothing fall apart.
As global contradictions sharpen and our cities and provinces become fodder for nefarious powers that have agendas other than collective human progression. May we all remain resolute, conscious of the ultimate goal. A future which belongs to all of us, the former pygmy of the world.