Opening SA


Dated Published: August 2023


Minister Dr Blade Nzimande

Let me greet all members of the diplomatic corps, including my fellow panellists who are here with me. Let me also greet our Director General of the Department of Higher Education and Training, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, all the heads of the BRICS think tanks and academic forum, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; allow me to extend a very warm welcome to all our BRICS friends and partners. I must make sure I pronounce it correctly now and not allow the ambassador, the High Commissioner of Nigeria, to confuse me. BRICS friends and partners for now. Although "BRINCS" does sound nice, I must say. It is a great pleasure to meet you following unprecedented travel restrictions over the past few years. I can see many familiar faces who are around here. With the lifting of the COVID protocols, the BRICS Collective is now at liberty to engage face-to-face once more and enjoy the favourable weather and what I trust will be memorable South African hospitality. We converge yet again to confirm who we are and the diverse cultures and civilisations we embrace. BRICS represents a group of countries brought together by a commitment to develop a more inclusive, equitable, and just global system. And that cannot be done unless we pay particular attention to developing countries and their needs. The 15th BRICS Academic Forum provides us as BRICS with another opportunity to strengthen our relations and reaffirm our values in an ever-unfortunately polarising global order. For South Africa, BRICS remains an important strategic platform to advance our values and national interests, as well as promote Africa's development agenda. BRICS presents us with a vehicle to pursue our collective interest as an alternative voice on international affairs and foreground multilateralism, peace, and exclusive equitable global development. Drawing from the broader theme of South Africa's 2023 BRICS Chairship, which is BRICS and Africa Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism. This academic forum is well placed to provide policy insights and informed analysis on how we could navigate some of the key challenges that continue to confront us nationally, regionally and indeed on a global scale. There are some key issues confronting the world today in which BRICS needs to play its role and make its presence felt. However, I wish to briefly highlight just four of these. The first is the issue of climate change and its impact on Mother Earth and the danger it poses to the very survival of human civilisation. We have one and only one planet. We have no alternative. And we have a duty to protect it. The key issues contained in this, in particular, is how to arrest, further global warming, and come up with mitigation strategies to protect the earth and all species, including the human species itself. This requires, amongst other things, a critical engagement and appraisal of the mode of production and reproduction of human life, and how this is to be made to be harmonious with the world we live in. Second major issue that I would like to highlight is that of promoting and fostering multilateralism and opposing all forms of unilateralism. And this multilateralism must act as a foundation for peaceful development and coexistence of all humanity. In fact, multilateralism is a foundation needed to drive and realise the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, as unilateralism is likely to undermine all of equitable development in the world. The third issue is that of the necessity to bring about peace in the world as a precondition for equitable economic development. The African Union has adopted a very important resolution to silence the guns in the African continent so that we can have a peaceful continent capable of realising its objectives of human development. Why can't this commitment become a global commitment to silence the guns in the entire world? So we can focus on the achievement of human goals, of egalitarianism and mutually beneficial development. The fourth key global issue facing the world today is that of, which I've hinted already equitable development in order to overcome uneven development in the world. The above four issues that I have just highlighted are some of the challenges in which the BRICS countries can make a decisive contribution, and therefore, these matters must become some of the key focus areas for our academics and think tanks in Briggs. Amongst other considerations is that in order to realise these goals of peace, inclusive development, multilateralism, and mitigation against climate change, we need to develop policy capacity to support these goals, we are not going to win that, especially policy capacity in the African continent. For instance, the BRICS focus on Africa requires that we develop policy capacity in the African continent to support an African research and development agenda to strengthen economic and social development in our continent. It's not by mistake as South Africa that we are chairing BRICS. We decided that the theme must be BRICS and Africa. Informed by our previous engagements and resolutions as BRICS, South Africa has presented the following themes for discussion and consideration in 2023, which is its chairship of BRICS. Firstly, it's equitable and just energy transition. I dare say, by the way, we cannot have a just energy transition if we also do not have just partnerships globally. The second one is transformation of education and skills development, and the whole issue, by the way, of the future of education in the light of technological developments. Thirdly, trade opportunities through the African continental free trade area. Fourthly, post-COVID-19 social, economic recovery, as well as lastly, as I have already said, the strengthening of multilateralism. The themes of sustainable and peaceful development and inclusive growth underpin all these topical areas that South Africa has placed as priorities for BRICS 2023. Therefore, the key and immediate task of our academic forum is that of pursuing research in all the above key areas such that even beyond South African chairship, these issues remain areas of priority, not just for BRICS and Africa, but for the developing world as a whole, with a decisive global impact as well. This will also require an extensive audit, for example, on research that is being done amongst BRIC countries under the themes that I have outlined above, including academic and research capacity we have or which we need to develop in order to be able to deal with these areas. The BRICS nations, individually and collectively, are an integral part of the global community and important role players in their respective regions with massive economic and political influence. As such, as I have said, BRICS has a critical role to play in the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But I must repeat and emphasise this. I was in New York two weeks ago to look at the role of science, technology, and innovation in the realisation of the sustainable development goals. It's very clear that the primary condition for the realisation of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals is peace. You can't have sustainable development in the context of wars and destabilisation, its commitment to multilateralism, and its commitment to equitable development. As the voice of the developing nations, in particular, the Global South, BRICS's role in the global sustainable development agenda is to ensure a global development trajectory with the human face. As academic forum and as think tanks, please give content, more content to this, a developmental trajectory with the human face. BRICS nations must ensure that as the world advances on technological and innovation fronts, no country, however small, is left behind. This means active embracing of new technologies like artificial intelligence and how this can be used to advance the agenda of peace, multilateralism, and equitable and inclusive global development. As a psychologist, I'm watching this area of artificial intelligence very closely because I would not like to see in future, a future where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. Then it would be in trouble. There are some scholars now and researchers who are beginning to argue actually that artificial intelligence may as well be the last human invention because, thereafter, it's likely to take over. I wish we do not reach that. We must have technology that is serving the interest of humanity and humanity must be at the center and be in charge of that. Those are some of the issues that we need to be debating and discussing in platforms like this. Human progress and development must be inclusive. It must not only favour the developed world over the underdeveloped worl, nor force the foster accumulation within countries by the already wealthy at the expense of the impoverished majorities. The technological and digital breakthroughs must benefit all nations of the world. As academics and think tankers, you have to assist us on how we achieve this. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown that as inextricably intertwined our future and humanity are, global inequalities persist, such that the wealthy amongst us are able to cushion the impact of this global crisis while the poor and less well-off nations remain more vulnerable and exposed. In fact, at the height of COVID-19, there was uneven distribution of the vaccines, with developed countries hoarding the vaccines. Something that's not very smart, by the way. A friend of mine from the United States always says that what developed countries were trying to do by thinking that only by providing vaccines in developed countries, then you can defeat and be free from COVID-19 is not correct. It's like reserving a portion. We are all in a swimming pool, swimming, and say we are reserving a portion of a swimming pool for those who want to pee. And the rest of us indeed won't be; we think we won't be affected. We have entered the age of pandemics, and there can be no one part of the world that can have pandemics and not affect the rest of the world. That is the reality that we are facing and we have to deal with. This is the unjust world that the BRICS Academic Forum and Think Tank need to grapple with. Another very important and emerging issue, by the way, is that of the necessity for a radical overhaul of the world's financial system that is currently dominated by the US dollar. Current developments in the world and the need for a more equitable developmental financial agenda call for the emergence of a more diversified financial system benefiting and using more than one set of financial instruments, very important. I think we need to reflect on the agreement between China and Brazil, BRICS countries to say we are now going to trade using our own currencies. That is very important. I am afraid Russia will have no choice as Russia other than to begin to seriously look at an alternative financial system globally. That is the contradiction by the way of unilateralism because it then starts generating alternative and potentially better ideas. How do we make those to be the best ideas, those alternative ideas? That's what we expect from you as our academics and think tanks. Related to this matter is the illicit flow of finances and funds from the African continent to developed countries worth billions of US dollars each year as we may still measure everything in terms of the US dollar. These illicit flows out of the continent constitute a huge developmental deficit for Africa, for instance. This requires closer study and scrutiny with a view of developing mechanisms to counter this. BRICS and African think tanks and research organisations need to greatly assist us in this regard. A separate, slightly separate, but closely related matter negatively affecting the development of the African continent in particular is that significant research and development taking place in the continent, including from the continent's biodiversity, which is an asset, often leads to products that are taken out of Africa and patented in the north. And this reinforces a dependent African science technology and innovation system that does not realise its full potential. Highlighted, what I've highlighted above, are some of the critical areas that require, amongst others, our academic and research institutions to pay close attention to. All of this should be part of the development of what I would call a resilient and relevant academic and research agenda for BRICS and the developing world. BRICS, as a formation closely linked to the global South agenda, must reject this unequal world and unashamedly call and struggle for a more just and inclusive world, where equality remains the guiding principle of human development and interaction. This places a special responsibility on us as BRICS nation that as we advance these noble ideas on a global front, we simultaneously develop national policies that are configured to address poverty, inequality, and high levels of unemployment within our own countries. This must be underpinned by a relevant and appropriate research agenda. Whilst we should have a dialogue, learn from, and interact with research agendas of the developed world, we must not simply and unproblematically and uncritically adopt and reproduce these paradigms. We should develop our own paradigms, and we must not just be consumers and recyclers of knowledge, but we ourselves, as the developing world, must be producers and innovators as well.

Sound and progressive education policies


could play a central role in helping us to overcome some of these difficult challenges. When people receive quality education, they are able to break from the cycle of poverty perpetuated by structural socioeconomic inequalities. Through platforms such as the Academic Forum, where honest and robust reflections on the merits and demerits of our policies are promoted, I am confident that we will be able to formulate policy proposals and recommendations that advance our development agenda. BRICS is an important voice of the developing nations and we cannot afford to falter. We have the commitment, we have the insights, and we have showed our resolve and resilience over the years amidst all the challenges and naysayers. We strongly believe in South Africa that BRICS is equal to the task. With these words, I wish you all a successful 15th Academic Forum. Not only myself but also the South African government looks forward to the outcomes of your deliberations. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

Thank you very much.




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