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Meeting provides a starting point

Updated: 2013-03-22 13:00
By Li Lianxing ( China Daily)

As BRICS has continued to perform well during the world financial crisis, some non-members, such as Egypt, have expressed interest in joining the club.

"I am hoping BRICS would one day become E-BRICS, where E stands for Egypt," an Indian paper recently quoted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy as saying. "I hope E-BRICS would emerge when we start moving the economy." Morsy said an institution such as a BRICS development bank would "support countries to achieve high growth rates and supplement the role of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and similar institutions".

Sven Grimm, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, says BRICS countries are in a strong position to provide development finance to African countries as they are accumulating wealth during their domestic development.

They could also draw on their experience to help African countries, he says. "Among the most important experiences are those where ideas did not work. These should be shared."

He says that often in Africa people exaggerate BRICS' strengths, ignoring its shortcomings and the domestic pressures its members face. In any engagement between BRICS and a prospective African partner, the benefits that the African partner stands to reap need to be highlighted, he says.

"With this, ideally, a proper discussion about mutual benefit would start."

He says South Africa could be a hub for BRICS countries entering Africa as it has good infrastructure and also sound "soft infrastructure", including accountability structures and regulations and flight connections.

"In some sectors like finance or other services, South Africa is thus a good starting point for venturing into the continent. Ultimately, however, all engagements with African states will have to be through them and according to their national regulations and standards. South Africa is a pleasant place to start venturing into Africa, but not the only one; the South African side will thus have to continuously work on its competitiveness in this regard."

Just as South Africa has commercial aims in the rest of Africa, its fellow BRICS members, especially China, India and Brazil, do too, Grimm says, and "that will not go away with partnership rhetoric only".

"BRICS countries have different Africa agendas and it is clear that there are areas of strong competition," he says.

"There are fears of de-industrialization in South Africa due to Chinese competition, for instance. And South Africa has interests in the rest of the continent. All countries, however, share an interest in promoting peace and security, and all countries have an interest in reliable government structures in African states."


(China Daily 03/22/2013 page14)

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