South Africa's membership of the BRICS group of influential emerging economies will help the country and the continent address their socio-economic challenges, says Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.
"It is important that all of us understand the importance of this group and why South Africa agreed to join," Hanekom said in Johannesburg on Saturday.
He was speaking during the Gauteng leg of a countrywide roadshow aimed at educating South Africans about the importance of the summit and the country's membership of the grouping, that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Saturday's event was also attended by Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, International Relations Director-General Jerry Matjila, and various provincial MECs.
South Africa officially became a member of BRICS on 24 December 2010, after being formally invited by the BRIC countries to join the group. The country will host the fifth BRICS Summit at the Durban International Convention Centre in March. This will complete the first cycle of BRICS summits
Hanekom said South Africa's membership of BRICS would not only speed up development in Africa's largest economy but also open up new markets for the continent as a whole.
The BRICS grouping accounts for about 43% of the global population. "This makes them an incredibly powerful economic force that is taking the world by storm," Hanekom said.
The countries' combined nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated at US$13.7-trillion and between 20% and 25% of global GDP.
Hanekom, who is a member of the ministerial committee on BRICS, emphasised that Gauteng's role in South Africa's membership of the bloc would be crucial. "As the province of Gauteng and given the strength of our economy, we are in a better position to seize the opportunities availed by our BRICS membership."
Matjila said public education about BRICS was aimed at making South Africans understand the rationale of joining the bloc.
"We took a decision that we want to take the people along with us in this BRICS movement. We joined BRICS because we wanted to interconnect the markets after interrogating the global shift in economies," Matjila said.
He noted that South Africa's budget grew from just over R200-million in 1994 to over a trillion in 2012 because the country had explored new markets over the years.
"Where do you think that money came from? We want to build new infrastructure and where do you think the money will come from? We have to explore new markets, and BRICS is giving us that platform," Matjila said.