BEIJING - As the newcomer to BRICS, South Africa will bring special insights to the work of the five nation grouping, said the country's ambassador to China before the five emerging powers hold a summit later this week.
The third BRICS Leaders' Meeting is slated for Thursday in China's southern island resort of Sanya. BRICS is a group acronym that refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which are all considered to be at the same stage of economic development. The four original members have held two summits respectively in Russia and Brazil over the past two years.
South Africa was officially invited to join BRICS on Dec 23, 2010, South African ambassador Bheki Langa told Xinhua, adding that "the invitation indicates the high regard with which our country is viewed internationally."
BRICS member states, among other emerging economies, play an important role in advancing the restructuring of the global political, economic and financial architecture into one that is more equitable, balanced and rests on the important pillar of multilateralism, Langa said.
"As an important part of the South and the global community, Africa has to take its rightful place in the new equitable world order," said the ambassador, adding that South Africa's participation in BRICS would mean that an entire continent that has a population of over 1 billion people is represented.
Langa said "it goes without saying" that South Africa is uniquely placed to bring the African perspective to the BRICS forum, like other global ones in which it participates, "since our foreign policy priority is the African continent."
While the discourse on BRICS has focused on the sizes of the economies, population and future projections of stature, Langa said there are important attributes which South Africa brings to the group.
"Among developing countries, we are the biggest investor on the African continent. This means that, although our economy is small in relation to other BRICS members, we have attributes that have positioned us well in the world and which will allow us to bring special insights into the work of BRICS," he said.
Langa said South Africa will be a good gateway for the other BRICS countries to the continent of Africa - "the next growth superstar."
"It is true that South Africa's population and economic size is not on the same level as those of Brazil, Russia, India and China - but clearly, the advantages of being part of the exploding African economic growth outweigh this consideration," he said.
"We speak for Africa as a whole. We bring the most diversified and most advanced economy on the continent. We may not be the same size (as the other BRICS members), but we can open up opportunities for them and through that, we can complete our economic integration on the continent," said Langa, quoting South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
For South Africa itself, huge new opportunities will open up on the investment and trade front, Langa said, adding that because of it being included in the grouping private companies may also find market access into the BRICS countries easier and partnerships with companies from this grouping might evolve.
"This might become particularly important as South Africa is already the biggest emerging economy investor in the continent and its companies are active in at least half of all African countries, he said.
BRICS nations' combined GDPs accounted for 18 percent of the global GDP in 2010 as their combined population accounted for 40 percent of the world's total. Trade volume of BRICS countries has also shot up year to year, with an average annual growth rate of 28 percent from 2001 to 2010. The total volume of trade among BRICS countries reached $230 billion last year.
It is the first time that South Africa will attend the BRICS summit to be held in Sanya.
"As the new member, we would like to use this meeting as a learning opportunity. We would very much like to get a better understanding of the agenda, a better understanding of how BRICS is supposed to operate, a better understanding of the imperatives of our four partners in this relationship," he said.
Apart from the BRICS summit itself, there are 11 sub-sectors of the BRICS initiative that South Africa needs to "very quickly" get to grips with, including banking cooperation, business cooperation, academic exchanges, and exchanges between other sectors, according to the ambassador.
"There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are ready to make our contribution in support of the African Agenda and the Agenda of the South to ensure a more balanced and equitable world order," he said.