Brics pacts signed

By Drum Digital
28 March 2013

Several agreements were signed at the Fifth Brics Summit in Durban this week, and the much-mooted Brics Development Bank appears to be firmly on the cards.

The event in Durban was touted as a success as the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa left Durban's International Convention Centre on Wednesday.

"We have decided to enter formal negotiations to establish a Brics-led new development bank," said President Jacob Zuma.

Brics is the group of developing countries made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

In a joint statement, Zuma and the leaders of the other member countries said: "Following the report from our finance ministers, we are satisfied that the establishment of a New Development Bank is feasible and viable. We have agreed to establish the New Development Bank."

Russian finance minister Anton Silaunov, who spoke before the signing of several bilateral agreements between Russia and South Africa on Tuesday, said agreement still had to be reached on the financial contributions member states would make.

Other issues yet to be resolved were whether voting rights would be accorded based on the size of member states' contributions or by consensus; and the bank's location.

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was upbeat and said "phenomenal progress" had been made in reaching an agreement to establish the bank, but that it could not be established "overnight".

He could not say how long it would take to establish, but that it would be within 10 years.

Pacts signed on Wednesday included a "Multilateral agreement on Infrastructure Co-financing for Africa" and a "Multilateral Agreement on Green Economy Co-operation Co-Financing."

Details of the two agreements were not immediately available.

The Brics Business Council was also formed and it emerged that the establishment of a Brics Think Tank had already been agreed on March 11.

Billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe has been appointed to chair the council, which is expected to drive partnerships between the respective governments and the private sector.

Zuma said on Wednesday Brics members all had their own problems.

South Africa had major difficulties in educating its youth and South Africa wanted to learn from the other Brics countries.

Co-operation of the Brics countries with the rest of Africa was critical, Zuma said.

India's prime minister Manmohan Singh said the Brics development bank would open opportunities and possibilities for Brics countries.

He said Brics countries stood to benefit from their convergence and collective strength.

Singh said Africa was experiencing rapid growth, progress, democratic transition and increasing stability.

He said Brics and Africa had similar developmental challenges on a range of global issues.

"We can work together to promote public and private investment in infrastructure, manufacturing and services in Africa. We can contribute to inclusive development by supporting micro and small and medium enterprises."

Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff said the development bank was tailored for the needs of Brics countries.

She said the bank had the highest potential for growth.

China's president Xi Jinping called on Brics countries to support Africa for stronger growth. He said Brics countries should forge a bond among each other and work hard in pushing for co-operation.

"We should not only seek our own development, but seek the development of all countries," he said.

Xi said Brics countries should uphold international fairness and justice, and safeguard world peace and stability.

Both the announcements on establishment of the bank and the launching of the business council were welcomed in various quarters on Wednesday.

Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) CEO Patrick Dlamini welcomed the agreement to establish the Brics development bank.

"This bank would ensure that the infrastructure development needs of member states, in particular Africa, gets much-needed infrastructure funding to address infrastructure gaps on the continent," he said.

The African National Congress said initiatives such as infrastructure development, long term finance and foreign direct investment would derive momentum from the bank.

"Brics has reconfirmed our belief in the collective power of the developing nations that account for more than half of the world population," spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

"It is such purposeful initiatives that will create a lasting platform for a fairer distribution of resources and development."

The Democratic Alliance welcomed the Brics Business Council.

"The business council is the primary vehicle by which the hope of private sector-led growth can truly take off in Africa," said DA trade and industry spokesman Wilmot James.

He said the council could become a platform to trade and develop commerce worldwide, and an axis of influence which could alter the traditional distribution of economic power in the world.

Black Management Forum (BMF) spokesman Rowena Baird said the business council had the ability to put in place practical measures which could deepen economic engagement and skills transfer among Brics countries.

After the summit, the Brics leaders met several African leaders.

-by Sapa

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