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Reflections on BRICS: prospects for South Africa and Africa

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
On 24 October 2012, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim I Ebrahim delivered a remarkable public lecture on the International Leadership Platform, titled “Reflections on BRICS: prospects for South Africa and Africa”.

The Division for Internationalisation at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in collaboration with the Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO) facilitated the public lecture at the Soweto Campus. Among the attendees were some very important personalities, namely Prof Adam Habib, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research & Library, Prof Rory Ryan, Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Dr Pamela Dube, Executive Director, Human Resources as well as many local and international students from different UJ campuses.

Prof Rory Ryan opened the public lecture by welcoming everyone and introducing the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. He emphasised the fact that Minister Ebrahim was an icon of the anti-apartheid struggle that cost him 15 years in prison, from 1963 to 1979. He also highlighted Minister Ebrahim's gradual progress up to the position of Deputy Minister. After this brief introduction, he invited Prof Habib to deliver the welcome address.
Prof Habib’s welcome message focused on introducing BRICS, which in an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa. BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation among the five abovementioned nations for better global development. He also added that an effort was being made to strengthen academic collaboration between the nations through DIRCO and create a South African think-tank as was already the case for the other BRICS partners. Prof Habib finished his welcome address by inviting Minister Ebrahim to start the lecture.

Ahead of the Fifth Summit of BRICS, which will be held in Durban, South Africa on 27 March 2013, the Minister began his address by stating that South Africa had been invited to join BRICS and had joined in December 2010. Since then, it has been involved in all BRICS activities. He went on urging students, present at the public lecture, to study the Summit declarations which provided insight in South Africa’s core deliberation and shared views on global issues of mutual interest.

“BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation among countries that represent 43% of the world population, coming from the five continents, one fifth of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimated at US$ 13.7 trillion as well as combined foreign reserves estimated at US$ 4.4 trillion and 17% of world trade”, said the Minister. Hence, it had to be taken seriously in the shift that was taking place in the international distribution of power, which was giving rise to an evolving multi-polar world order with a new configuration and networks of States such as BRICS and IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa).

The Minister also affirmed that South Africa served as an interlocutor between BRICS and other African nations, since the African agenda was a key priority of South Africa foreign policy. That was the reason why President Jacob Zuma would like to ensure, in the 2013 Summit, that South African membership benefits the entire continent. The Minister finished his speech by adding that South Africa, because of its unique history and independent foreign policy, brought its own particular perspective and experience to BRICS.

After the Deputy Minister’s speech, Prof Chris Landsberg, Head of the Politics Department at UJ, clarified the role of BRICS and how challenging it could be to achieve its goals if one took into account the interference of Western powers that felt threatened by, particularly, the Chinese influence in Africa. What he called “BRICSPHOBIA”!
A session of questions and answers followed where the Deputy Minister took the opportunity to clarify other points in the BRICS structure.

Dr Pamela Dube, newly appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation, Advancement and Study Affairs, closed the session by thanking the participants.

By Justice Sompo, Master’s student, University of Johannesburg
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