Brand South Africa evaluates the 15th BRICS summit

* Lefentse Nokaneng is General Manager-Research at Brand South Africa.

The Johannesburg summit declaration proposes a number of additional cutting-edge measures for strengthening relations between BRICS and Africa. The special invitation extended by South Africa, in its capacity as BRICS Chair, allowed African leaders and delegations to participate in the BRICS-Africa Outreach and BRICS Plus Dialogue, wherein several important issues were discussed.

Held under the theme ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism’, the summit primarily shows the bloc’s key objectives, among others, to promote global peace and development, and work toward a new world order. The growth in its numerical strength also offers an additional impetus for collaboration and accelerating momentous shifts in global politics.

  • Brand SA and its mandate

Brand South Africa is the principal custodian of South Africa’s nation-brand. The agency is tasked with making meaningful contributions to economic growth, job creation, poverty alleviation and social cohesion by undertaking the following:

  • Investment Promotion and Facilitation: At its core, Brand South Africa is responsible for attracting and facilitating investments in the country. This involves showcasing the nation’s economic strengths, growth potential and various investment opportunities to local and international investors. The agency collaborates with government bodies, private sector entities and other stakeholders to develop targetted investment promotion campaigns that highlight sectors such as technology, manufacturing, tourism, natural resources and more.
  • Shaping the Nation Brand Image: Brand South Africa works to shape a positive and consistent image of the nation on the global stage. This encompasses not only economic aspects but also cultural, social and environmental ones. By showcasing a holistic representation of South Africa, the agency aims to create a compelling and authentic brand identity that resonates with various audiences worldwide.
  • Reputation Management: Managing the nation’s reputation involves proactively addressing challenges and mitigating negative perceptions that might hinder investment and economic growth. Brand South Africa monitors international media, social trends and public sentiment to identify potential reputation risks. By promptly responding to issues, correcting misinformation and fostering transparent communication, the agency safeguards the country’s image and maintains investor confidence.

While attracting foreign investment is crucial, Brand South Africa also prioritises fostering a sense of pride, unity and active citizenship among the local population. By promoting a positive national identity and encouraging citizens to contribute in the country’s development, the agency aims to create an environment that is conducive to investment and sustainable growth.

  • Evaluating the 15th BRICS summit

The 15th BRICS summit, hosted and chaired by South Africa, was a successful event for South Africa as a country and the BRICS bloc – which saw the historic inclusion of six new members: namely Argentina, the UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Ethiopia. This expansion marked a significant milestone, reflecting the bloc’s unwavering commitment to fostering a reformed and restructured global political and economic order based on the ideals of inclusivity, multilateralism and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The inclusion of Egypt and Ethiopia carries profound implications. Both nations hold esteemed positions within the African Union’s esteemed ‘big-five’, underscoring their continental significance. Their inclusion underscores South Africa’s steadfast dedication to advancing the African agenda. Both countries boast formidable economies with untapped potential, further amplifying the bloc’s economic prowess.

Ethiopia and Egypt hold the promise of fortifying links between the BRICS bloc and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), given that both nations have ratified this transformative agreement. Their inclusion into BRICS significantly augments African representation within the bloc’s ranks, while simultaneously fostering closer collaboration between BRICS and vital organisations like the African Union.

Other key highlights of the XV BRICS summit included the attendance by over 40 heads of state and scores of government officials and business leaders, including the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. Furthermore, the BRICS Women’s alliance was able to meet leaders for the first time since inception in 2020. It is quite fitting that this meeting coincides with Woman’s Month, which is celebrated in August. The BRICS Business Council was inaugurated during the 5th BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa – back in 2013, and celebrated its 10th anniversary.

  • BRICS, South Africa and Africa

The occurrence of this momentous and historic occasion on African soil and, within the borders of South Africa, stands as a resounding triumph for the country. Since joining BRICS, South Africa has experienced growth in trade with its BRIC partners. South Africa’s total trade (exports + imports) with other BRICS countries accounted for approximately 21.2% of its overall trade volumes. We have also seen an increase in FDI flows between South Africa and its BRICS partners, with the NDB playing a key role in funding key critical infrastructure projects. South Africa has also played a leading role in relation to the formation of BRICS institutes on energy and vaccine research.

Further, South Africa has been at the forefront of advocating unified educational qualification standards, and the conceptualisation of an airlift strategy to promote intra-BRICS people to people exchange. At the core of South Africa’s interest has been inclusion of the African agenda and finding complementarities between Africa and BRICS. The development of Global Value chains and Regional Value chains will be a key driver, and South Africa is well-positioned to play a critical role as Africa’s most industrialised and diversified economy.

This, coupled with the expansion of BRICS, invariably means Brand South Africa can strategically position the nation as a manufacturing hub within emerging new markets; thus showcasing its industrial prowess and diverse economic capabilities. With BRICS’ broader reach, Brand South Africa gains an expanded platform to promote its nation-brand globally while facilitating meaningful cultural exchange and people to people engagements.

  • BRICS as an economic bloc

South Africa strongly supports intensifying the intra-BRICS trade and multi-lateral reform it advocates. The country also supports intra-BRICS trade being conducted in local currencies, and has thus supported this as part of the Johannesburg II declaration. Furthermore, it remains a champion of the AfCFTA, though most of its countries do not belong to the bloc. South Africa sees BRICS as a means of promoting multi-lateral reform and cooperative economic growth which will benefit the globe as a whole.

President Ramaphosa – in his speech preceding the summit that sought to clarify the country’s foreign policy – allayed fears of the country’s membership in BRICS being in opposition to its relationships with the US, UK and EU. He reiterated that South Africa is in favour of inclusivity, holistic economic growth, and institutional reform. South Africa, he says, depends on all countries and is non-aligned; and believes in cooperation, trade and investment, the peaceful resolution of disputes and the struggle for democracy.

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