Reviewing South Africa’s 2018 BRICS Presidency Taking lessons forward

Reviewing South Africa’s 2018 BRICS Presidency: Taking lessons forward

Dated Published: February 2019

In 2018, South Africa hosted the BRICS chairship and 10th summit under the theme of “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”. A number of actors continue to be proactive in the BRICS fora and thus engage through the following tracks of diplomacy: Track I engages formal diplomatic role players at national governmental level; Track II engagement is facilitated through government and non-government affiliated institutions, business councils and academic forums; and Track III engages civil society and the “people-to-people” dimension of BRICS. This dialogue is an opportunity to launch this year’s discussions by taking stock of South Africa’s presidency in 2018 and receiving feedback from various work streams and diplomatic tracks where South African delegations had participated. Furthermore, it is important to deliberate on South Africa’s role in the upcoming 11th Summit, hosted by Brazil, and work towards maximizing Team South Africa’s contribution to the BRICS partnership. The involvement of the various diplomatic tracks in this public dialogue is thus a deliberate effort to ensure that over time the idea of a Team South Africa crystallises in the country’s various global engagements. While the various actors involved in BRICS initiatives may not always see eye to eye and often use different lenses to interpret global events, it is important to enable spaces where all the various actors within and outside of the state can interact and share their experiences in order to deepen the various forms of cooperation with BRICS counterparts. It is this process that the Institute for Global Dialogue and the South African BRICS Think Tank are interested in facilitating through these BRICS Dialogues.

The dialogue was co-hosted with the South African BRICS Think Tank (SABTT) as part of a dialogue series that tracks developments in BRICS. Housed within the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the SABTT endeavours to provide a platform for researchers and academics to enquire into BRICS related research from South African, African and intra BRICS perspectives, while providing technical and financial support and overseeing research outputs that contribute to practical policy inputs. The Academic Forum was held from 28 – 31 May 2018, in Johannesburg, and reflected on the main theme of the South African BRICS presidency through the sub-theme of “Envisioning Inclusive Economic Development through a Socially Responsive Economy”. The Academic Forum engaged on the following topics and themes: gender and inequality; economic prosperity in the context of manufacturing and financial initiatives for sustainable development; universal health coverage; social protection, agriculture and food security; governance, peace and stability; leveraging educational,
scientific and productive collective strengths; advancing creative powers for education exchange; creating an accessible, forward-looking and impactful research commons for the global South; and energy research. The SABTT looks forward to Brazil’s chairship, which will be held in November 2019 and further encourages the spirit of collaboration and cooperation through the joint research projects undertaken by academics and researchers.

Mr. Malcomson began the discussion by providing an overview of the BRICS. South Africa gained membership to BRICS in 2010. This membership is based on South Africa’s national objectives, through the New Development Plan (NDP), its African agenda and achieving Agenda 2063 and interacting meaningfully in partnerships that encourage the voice of the global South and emerging markets. The grouping is based on shared values that aim to restructure the global political, economic and financial architecture to be more equitable, balanced and resting on the important pillars of multilateralism and international law. The 4th Industrial Revolution is of immense importance; as much as it provides opportunities, it also provides challenges in the field of the future of work and the potential for huge job loses especially in Africa. With regard to the activities built around the South African chairship, there was a special retreat to discuss what worked and what did not and what work to look forward to. Prior to the summit there had been various lead-up meetings. This helped build up the kind of narrative we wanted to see during the South African chairship. An initiative that South Africa wanted to pass though when it first chaired in 2013, invited the heads of state that are members of the African Union (AU), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and various leaders of the South African Development Community (SADC). While this focus remained regional, it still represents leadership from the global South, which brings about very useful dialogues and has been continued throughout the BRICS chairships.

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