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S Africans see gains in BRICS membership

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-24 23:54

DURBAN, South Africa - Ordinary South Africans are optimistic that the upcoming 5th BRICS Summit to be held in the coastal city of Durban will help open new foreign markets for their country, pull more foreign direct investments and create more jobs.

The South African government has launched a campaign to sensitize its citizens about the summit, a grouping of the world's emerging economies that plays an increasing role in the global economic arena. It is the first time that the summit will be held on the African soil since its formation.

"We are hoping that the deals signed here will bring new investments. We need more factories to create jobs," said Ephraim Mokone, a Durban-based businessman and a father of two.

S Africans see gains in BRICS membership

He spoke to Xinhua while on a family outing at the Southern Beach, just meters away from the Durban's International Conference Center, where the summit will be opened on Tuesday.

Most of the South Africans who spoke to Xinhua at the bustling Southern Beach dotted with art crafts stalls and amusement facilities overlooking the white beaches of the Indian Ocean welcomed the meeting saying it spells well for the country.

"I did not know about the meeting but my expectations are that it will result in economic progress of the country," said Given Vongani, a tours shuttle driver from Johannesburg, in Durban on hire by some of the delegates attending the summit.

South Africans hope that the country could host more such meetings, which in addition to the mega economic deals will also bring in more visitors, boosting its already bustling tourism sector.

The BRICS Summit will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Several African leaders including Senegalese President Macky Sall and the Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso are also expected at the summit, which attracts hundreds of African delegates. The theme of the summit is "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization".

Kutlwisiso Mokone, a recent university graduate, said he hopes that the summit will help his country improve its economic performance, and sees good leadership in pulling such important world leaders into his country.

He learnt about the summit during a concert held at the shores of the Indian Ocean on the beach across the Snell Parade Street that is lined up with tens of hotels.

"The most important benefit would be to bring in investments here. We need investors who can set up factories rather than just shops. We need more manufacturing here to create jobs for the locals," he said.

In the last three years, South Africa has hosted mega international events that have marketed the country positively to the world and helped improve the image of Africa as a whole. In 2010, the country hosted the World Cup, the first time the event was held on African soil.

It has also hosted the global conference on climate change negotiations and the African Cup of Nations on short, six months notice. The BRICS Summit will provide yet another opportunity for the country to showcase its capability to host global events.

South Africa is Africa's biggest economy in size, but like the rest of Africa, it has been grappling with unemployment issues. Unemployment is estimated at 25 percent, and at 40 percent among the youth.

According to the International Monetary Fund report released in the fourth quarter of 2012, efforts to ease unemployment were being hampered by policies, product market structure, and labor market arrangements that ended up protecting insiders at the expense of the unemployed.

The economy has been growing at 3 percent for 2012 and an estimated 3.7 percent this year, below most of the Africa's star performing economies like Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia whose annual growth averaged at 7 percent last year.

The administration of President Jacob Zuma has been working on a raft of economic policies meant to address unemployment and equity in the distribution of social services.

Vumi Masela, a handcrafts trader at the South Beach market said although business is good, the cost of living continues to rise and hopes that prices of basic needs including food can reduce.

She sees greater hope in her country's efforts to partner with other global economies to benefit from the synergies that will help the country provide greater opportunities for the growing population.

"I hope the outcome can be that we find new markets for South African goods. I for instance look forward to exporting such crafts especially to China because a lot of Chinese people are doing business in our country," she said.

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