Africa: Brics Agree Development Bank and Science Forum

The five BRICS countries agreed to set up a development bank, a forum of science ministers and a council for researchers and academia at their forum in Durban, South Africa, last month (26-27 March).

According to media reports, the bank is expected to start with US$50 billion in total - US$10 billion from each BRICS country: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - and will fund development and infrastructure projects in developing countries.

For example, it may support initiatives related to sustainable development and climate change, such as green technology projects, biofuels, dams and nuclear power plants in Africa, according to Hannah Edinger, head of research and strategy at emerging-markets consultancy Frontier Advisory, who was speaking to the IPS news agency (28 February).

As part of the main forum's 'Summit Declaration and Action Plan' adopted at the meeting, the nations also agreed to organise a meeting of BRICS science and technology ministers and another meeting of BRICS senior officials on science and technology.

The science ministers' forum will discuss joint research projects, according to Research Africa.

"It will oversee and initiate science programmes," Mmboneni Muofhe, the deputy director general of international cooperation and resources for South Africa's Department of Science and Technology, told Research Africa last week (2 April). "Initially the primary focus [of BRICS] was on trade and business issues, but now science is among other areas receiving attention. The group realises that science is critical in growing economies."

The nations have also established a BRICS Think Tanks Council to assist with innovation and act as a "platform for the exchange of ideas among researchers, academia and think tanks".

It comprises: the Institute for Applied Economic Research, Brazil; the National Committee for BRICS Research, Russia; the Observer Research Foundation, India; the China Center for Contemporary World Studies; and the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa.

The council will be responsible for convening the BRICS Academic Forum to provide policy recommendations and guidance for the BRICS leaders to consider.

This year's Academic Forum, which met last month (11-12 March), ahead of the main forum in Durban, recommended that BRICS "should intensify its support for collaboration amongst academics and scholars through a variety of institutions, networks and programmes that advances education, research and skills development".

It also suggested creating an independent BRICS rating agency for educational institutions; a BRICS university; a data bank with key information on the five countries; and a digital platform with detailed information on researchers and institutions dealing with BRICS issues. Brazil offered to host the last two.

The summit declaration also identified small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as "major creators of jobs and wealth" and promised to explore cooperation on SMEs, "particularly with a view to promoting their international exchange and cooperation and fostering innovation, research and development".

In what was the first BRICS forum to take place in Africa, the countries also agreed to promote development on the continent.

"The BRICS leaders have undertaken to take their cooperation forward to support Africa's efforts to accelerate the diversification and modernisation of its economies, through infrastructure development, knowledge exchange and support for increased access to technology, enhanced capacity-building and investment in human capital," Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation, told the media last week (4 April).

Link to 'Summit Declaration and Action Plan'

Link to the Academic Forum's recommendations [PDF 70KB]

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